Merkel ally lashes out at Italy's 'mafia methods'

13th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

A senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives Wednesday hit out at what he called Italy's "mafia methods" in the row within Europe over how to deal with North African immigrants.

Guenter Krings, deputy parliamentary group leader of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), told mass circulation daily Bild that Rome was using "blackmail methods ... that we normally associate with the mafia."

Italy has urged its European Union neighbours to help it cope with a "human tsunami" that has overwhelmed the tiny island of Lampedusa since revolutions erupted in Tunisia and Libya earlier this year.

But a diplomatic row erupted last week when Rome announced it would grant six-month residency permits to more than 20,000 Tunisian migrants, which could allow them to travel freely in Europe's border-free Schengen area.

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has said it was up to Italy to deal with the wave of migrants and find a solution with Tunisian authorities to stop people from reaching Europe's shores.

"These are simply economic refugees. They should be sent back," Ole Schroeder, another CDU politician, told Bild.

Around 26,000 undocumented migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year, including some 21,000 who said they were from Tunisia.

They said they were fleeing the dire economic situation that had followed the political uprising in January.

"We asked for solidarity, but we were told to sort it out on our own," Italian Interior Minister Roberto said Monday.

"I am wondering if there is still any point to being part of the European Union."

© 2011 AFP

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