September 1, 2014
Italy threatens to let refugees enter the EU unless help increases
Italy threatened to allow refugees to cross its borders into neighbouring countries today unless the European Union takes charge of a sea operation to manage the flow of migrants crossing in boats from North Africa.
Interior Minister Angelino Alfano demanded more help after the Italian navy task force 'Mare Nostrum' rescued more than 200 migrants and recovered 17 bodies when the boat carrying them sank off the Libyan coast.
"The European Union has two options: either it comes to the Mediterranean to put the EU flag on Mare Nostrum or we will let migrants with right of asylum leave for other countries," Alfano wrote on Twitter.
With less than two weeks before European parliamentary elections, immigration has become a hot political topic.
Italian politicians have long demanded more help from the rest of the European Union to deal with the crisis, which disproportionately affects the bloc's southernmost countries.
They have called for a change to rules which oblige asylum seekers to remain in the country in which they first arrive.