Migrant summit to be held in Rome

Indo Asian News Service

Rome, March 9 (IANS/AKI) Italy is planning a migration summit in Rome with France, Germany and North African countries aiming at stemming the influx to Europe, Interior Minister Marco Minniti told daily Corriere della Sera on Thursday.

Minniti did not set a date for the summit, which may be held in the coming days, the daily said.

Italy is the main entry point for boat migrants heading to Europe, and 15,750 have already arrived so far this year after 181,283 migrants landed in the country last year, according to Interior Ministry data issued on Thursday.

"Almost all these migrants set sail from Libya," said Minniti, adding that Italy was firming up deals to halt the flow of migrants in Niger and "working with Ethiopia".

Most of the migrants heading to Europe via Italy are coming to improve their economic situation, he claimed.

"It is absolutely impossible to continue taking in whoever disembarks illegally on our coasts, without imposing any reception criteria," Minniti told Corriere.

Minniti said he saw the migration crisis as the biggest threat to the European Union's cohesion, security and values since its creation.

"We have built a paradise of democracy and prosperity where everyone wants to come. If we don't defend it, we'll lose it," he said.

The "anarchic" migrant arrivals and a lack of coordination from Brussels had contributed to Britain's decision to leave the EU and fuelled the growth of far-right and populist movements in the bloc, Minniti claimed.

He also raised concerns that Islamic State jihadists fleeing military defeat in Iraq and Syria could slip into Europe aboard the people-traffickers' boats.

"I don't rule out that IS militants could joint the migrant crossings," he said.

"The matter must be broadened to a European level; it can't just be an Italian one," Minniti told the paper.

--IANS/AKI

vd