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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 09:21 GMT 10:21 UK
Italy tackles Libya migrant route
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (left) and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi (right)
Italy and Libya plan joint air, sea and land patrols
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has met Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi for talks on curbing illegal immigration into Europe.

After the meeting in the Libyan port of Sirte, Mr Berlusconi called for closer international co-operation.

He said the problem of illegal immigration was not just Italian and Libyan, but European and African.

The two countries signed an accord in July agreeing to mount joint sea, air and land patrols from mid-September.

The problem was highlighted on Tuesday by the arrival of 275 migrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa - the largest single landing there so far.

The boatload of illegal migrants - including 89 children - claimed to be Bangladeshis and Palestinians.

Deportation

Many migrants try to reach Italy via Libya.

"We clarified the importance of collaborating on illegal immigration to find a solution to a problem which is not only Italo-Libyan but European and African," Mr Berlusconi told reporters before returning to Italy.

Libya has some 9,654km (6,000 miles) of maritime and desert frontiers and lacks equipment and personnel to patrol these effectively.

The two countries also plan to work on deporting illegal immigrants directly from Libya.

Italy and Libya have close economic ties, despite a long-standing dispute over Libya's unsatisfied claim for compensation for the period at the beginning of the 20th Century when it was under Italian colonial rule.

Mr Berlusconi visited Libya in October 2002 and again in February this year, becoming the first Western leader to meet Mr Gaddafi after the Libyan leader announced that he was abandoning programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction.




SEE ALSO:
Migrants safe after sea rescue
17 Apr 04  |  Europe
Italian PM in talks with Gaddafi
10 Feb 04  |  Europe
Libya: Tough gateway to Europe
30 Dec 03  |  Africa
Migrant headache dogs Italy
01 Jul 03  |  Europe


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