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Italy threatens to 'hurt' Europe if it doesn't get help with migrants

world Updated: Jun 14, 2015 15:31 IST
PM Matteo Renzi

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi threatened on Sunday to go to a Plan 'B' to deal with migrants which "would hurt Europe" if Italy is not given greater help with the crisis.

The country is struggling to accommodate an endless wave of boat migrants and a crackdown on security at the French and Austrian borders over the past few days has excerbated the situation, causing a bottleneck at Italy's train stations.

The crisis "should not be underestimated. It is a serious issue and, let me be clear, Europe's answers so far have not been good enough," Renzi said in an interview published in the Corriere della Sera daily.

The EU is having difficulty getting consensus for its proposed migrant distribution plan -- under which 24,000 refugees would be taken by other countries -- but Italy is hoping an EU summit on 25 June will go even further.

"Redistributing just 24,000 people is almost a provocation," Renzi said.

"If Europe chooses solidarity, good. If it doesn't, we have Plan B ready. But it would first and foremost hurt Europe," he said, without providing details.

Over 57,000 migrants and asylum seekers have been rescued at sea and brought to Italy so far this year, up from 54,000 at the same time last year, he said.

The PM will raise the immigration issue with his British and French counterparts when they travel to Milan this week, and said he would also speak to European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Under the Dublin convention, refugees must apply for asylum in the first country of entry to Europe -- a rule which Italy says is unfair as it leaves Rome to deal with the thousands of migrants washing up on its shores.

Greece has also long complained of being left with the same problem.

The Schengen open borders accord has until now meant those landing in Italy can usually easily travel through neighbouring France, Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia as they seek to make it to Britain, Germany and Scandinavia.

But border controls have been temporarily reintroduced due to a recent summit of G7 leaders in Germany, sparking migrant protests at the frontier with France Saturday when French police refused entry to more than 200 people hoping to head to northern Europe.

The Dublin convention "should be changed," Renzi said, insisting the current chaos in Libya -- from where many of the boats depart -- is "Europe's responsibility in light of the (military) intervention four years ago" by NATO to help rebels unseat dictator Moamer Kadhafi.