The Malta Independent 22 January 2022, Saturday

Berlusconi To discuss illegal immigration with Gaddafi

Malta Independent Tuesday, 24 August 2004, 00:00 Last update: about 18 years ago

Thousands of immigrants have landed on Italian soil this summer, many travelling across the Mediterranean from Libya. A large number of illegal immigrants use Italy as a passageway to northern Europe.

Some of them end up in Malta, with the Maltese government, together with that of Italy, urging the European Union to help the two countries tackle the situation. Earlier this month, Italy said an estimated two million people were waiting to cross from Libya.

Only last Sunday, the EU’s incoming Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner described the situation as a time bomb.

“With Gaddafi we have many issues to solve together, but in a spirit of complete friendship,” Berlusconi told reporters over the weekend. He is to travel to Tripoli tomorrow, his office said.

Berlusconi said the meeting would also touch on Libya’s long-standing request for compensation for the period of Italian occupation. Libya is a former Italian colony.

Earlier in August, Rome agreed to train Libya’s police and eventually launch joint air, sea and land patrols to halt the flow of migrants, and the two countries will work on deporting illegal immigrants directly from Libya.

Last year, Italy and Libya agreed to fight criminal groups involved in human smuggling and cooperate on rescues.

Italy has also called on the European Union to loosen its embargo against Libya to allow it to buy military equipment to block human smuggling.

Rome has good relations with the African nation, and is Libya’s largest trading partner. Berlusconi went to Libya in October 2002 and again in February, when he became the first Western leader to meet Gaddafi after the Libyan leader announced late last year that he was abandoning programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction. (AP)

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