Tunisia to cooperate with Italy on migrant crisis

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ROME, ITALY: Tunisia on Monday said that it will cooperate with Italian authorities to address the migrant crisis caused by thousands of Tunisians arriving to southern Italy, the ANSA news agency reported.

The new Tunisian government, installed after the dismissal of former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, remarked that there could not be any interference in the African country's internal affairs.

Following the turmoil in Tunisia, thousands of people fled the North African country to the Lampedusa Island, near Sicily. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni called the migrant crisis as a Biblical exodus.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that the European country will request Tunisia for joint patrols in the borders, similar to the ones with Libya. Frattini will meet Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi on Monday evening.

Maroni also called for an urgent meeting in the European Union to devise a strategy for coping with immigration in the Mediterranean due to the recent turmoil in some North African countries.

On Monday, thousands of Tunisians continue to travel the 115-kilometer crossing to the island of Lampedusa, which is closer to Africa than to Italy. Accroding to Maroni, the EU had yet to issue directives on migrants and asylum seekers from Tunisia despite Italian requests.

"We have been asking for a long time that the EU help us with all that we are doing at our own expense and with our own efforts. This is one of the many requests that we have put forward, and on which the EU has yet to give us a response," added the Interior Minister.

Meanwhile, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton traveled to Tunisia and met with PM Ghannouchi and other officials to discuss international cooperation, trade, and development.

"The EU is wholeheartedly behind the Tunisian people’s aspirations for freedom, democracy and dignity. They have reached a point of no return in their history and I pay tribute to the courage and dignity of the people in their peaceful struggle to be the owners of their own destiny," said Ahston.

Ashton also reassured the EU's support towards an orderly but decisive transition as well as free and democratic elections to be held later this year. However, Ashton did not comment on the migration issues with Italy.

(BNO NEWS )

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