French police arrest Tunisian migrants: officials

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French police arrested 60 mostly Tunisian immigrants in Paris, officials said Wednesday, accusing them of entering the country illegally, as France pushes to tighten the EU's open-border rules.

A Paris police source said the suspects, who included some Egyptians, Libyans and Algerians, were in custody after being arrested in Paris and Pantin, a suburb of the capital, for "breaking the residency laws".

Tunisia and Egypt each saw dramatic uprisings this year which drove out their long-term rulers. Libya is currently gripped by fighting between rebels and forces loyal to its ruler Moamer Khadhafi.

The turbulence in the Arab world has driven a wave of migrants to seek refuge in Europe, with thousands landing in Italy in recent weeks. Many French-speaking Tunisians hope to reach France which has close ties to its former colony.

France has taken a tough line on the spillover, however, voicing annoyance with Italy for issuing temporary residency permits to migrants that enable them to travel on to France under the EU's open-borders pact.

On Tuesday France and Italy proposed a reform to allow EU states to re-impose internal frontier controls temporarily in case of a major influx of migrants.

A police source said those detained in France would be offered free passage back to their home countries. Otherwise a judge will rule on whether they can be forced to leave.

A lawyer acting for several Tunisian migrants, Samia Maktouf, said the migrants "were not committing any offence or breach of public order" to merit their arrest on Tuesday evening.

"Their only fault is that it was possible to locate where they were sleeping" after they staged a public demonstration, she said.

© 2011 AFP

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