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France upset at Italian deal over Tunisian migrants

Reuters/Alessandro Garofalo

The Interior ministers from France and Italy met on Friday to discuss the growing row over Rome's decision to grant temporary visas to some 20,000 Tunisian migrants. France says it does not want a 'wave' of migrants coming into the country and will repatriate them if they do not have valid identity papers and sufficient funds to support themselves. 

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Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni struck a deal with Tunisia earlier this month under which migrants who have already arrived will receive permits, but any new arrivals will be deported under a new arrangement. Maroni has accused France of violating the rules of the European Union's Schengen visa-free zone.

The 25-country visa-free Schengen Zone covers most of the EU, but does not include the United Kindgom or Ireland.

French Interior Minister Claude Guéant said France had every right to send the migrants back to Italy.

A total of 25,800 migrants on 390 boats have arrived in Italy so far this year, including around 21,000 who said they were from Tunisia.

France detained 2,800 undocumented Tunisian migrants in March alone said Guéant adding that most had already been sent back to Italy.

Hundreds of the migrants have travelled to the town of Ventimiglia on the French-Italian border in recent weeks and have tried to board trains to the French city of Nice.

Immigration is set to top the agenda at a summit between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome on 26 April.

 

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