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Recent boat tragedy off Lampedusa – a strong reminder to Europe on plight of migrants

Strasbourg, 12.10.2012 - At the end of his three day visit to Rome and Sicily, the rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on "The arrival of mixed migratory flows to Italian coastal areas", Christopher Chope (United Kingdom, EDG), met with some of the survivors of the recent boat tragedy off Lampedusa in the migrant detention centre of Contrada Milo in Trapani (Sicily). According to one of the 56 survivors, more than 70 people drowned, when their boat capsized in early September. "This clearly shows that there can be no grounds for complacency over the gravity of the continuing plight of migrants from North Africa," he said. Although only about 9,000 people arrived to Italy from North Africa since January - far fewer than in 2011 - many are still risking their life.

During meetings with several Italian Ministries, members of the Italian delegation to the PACE, International Organisations and NGOs he also discussed the question of what will happen after the 31 December 2012, when the "North African Emergency" funding will officially end. The Italian Government is examining possible solutions for the at least 18,000 persons who are currently hosted within the various emergency reception facilities throughout the country, but is yet to reach a conclusion. Another concern is the category of people who were not granted any protection status, but cannot be sent back to their countries of origin or to Libya where they came from. While showing sympathy with the situation that Italy faces as one of the European front-line states, Mr Chope stressed that "Italy must produce an exit plan before time runs out".