Council of Europe says Italy must not expel migrants
Europe's top rights body said Italy must not expel thousands of illegal migrants who arrived in recent days, mainly from Tunisia, but should take responsibility for them.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called on Italy to involve UN and other aid agencies in dealing with the migrants, about 5,000 of whom have arrived on its small island of Lampedusa in the past week.
"Notwithstanding the need for action, there must be no mass expulsion," assembly president Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a statement, adding that "those in need of protection must receive it".
"It is necessary to understand why these persons are leaving and to tackle the causes, including the criminal networks which are exploiting the uncertainties in Tunisia," he said.
The migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean from Tunisia are seeking employment in Europe, with their own country unstable a month after the fall of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Cavusoglu said it was also "absolutely necessary that Europe share the responsibility for these people".
"Today it is Italy taking the brunt. Tomorrow it could be Malta, next week it could be Greece, in a year Turkey. All of Europe is concerned," he said.
The European border management agency Frontex had a role to play in controlling the illegal migration but it "must abide by human rights provisions applying to rescue and interception at sea," he said.
Tunisian migrants have long used Italy as a stepping stone into Europe but there has been a sharp increase in arrivals in recent days, with Italy declaring a humanitarian crisis.
The 47-member Council of Europe works to uphold democracy, human rights and rule of law across Europe.
© 2011 AFP