France says will not accept 'wave of Tunisian migration'
France warned that it would not tolerate a "wave of Tunisian immigration" after Italy on Thursday granted humanitarian permits to thousands of Tunisians allowing them to travel around Europe.
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant warned that the permits would not be enough to move freely around the 25-country visa-free Schengen zone, which covers most of the European Union but does not include Britain or Ireland.
"It's not enough to have a residency permit in (a member state), you also need identity papers and, above all, the means to support yourself," Gueant said, adding that he would protest Italy's move with the European Union.
"If these conditions are not met, France is completely within its rights to sent back to Italy" those concerned. "That's what it will do," Gueant said.
France has voiced fears that many of the French-speaking migrants will head for France as soon as they are able to travel freely and has asked Rome to strengthen controls on the border in northwest Italy.
France "is happy that Tunisia is entering an era of freedom and democracy, but doesn't count on dealing with a wave of Tunisian immigrants purely justified through economic considerations," Gueant said.
Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said more than 25,000 undocumented migrants have landed in Italy so far this year on 390 boats -- mainly on the island of Lampedusa, a tiny outcrop that is closer to North African than to mainland Italy.
Around 21,000 of the migrants said they were from Tunisia, Maroni added.
The European Commission earlier this month said it was considering granting temporary protection to the migrants under a 2001 EU directive never used before but added that there was no majority of countries in favour.
The mechanism would have to be approved by the European Council, the EU's main decision-making body which represents the 27 member states.
© 2011 AFP