France blocks Italian trains carrying migrants

04/17/2011 - 13:35

17 April 2011 Last updated at 15:30 GMT France blocks Italian trains carrying migrants A boat carrying 600 migrants arrives in the port of Lampedusa on April 8, 2011Large numbers of north African migrants have been landing on Italian shores Continue reading the main story

Related Stories

Authorities in France have blocked trains from Italy in an attempt to stop north African migrants from entering the country. Trains carrying migrants and political activists have been stopped at the border - prompting Italy to launch an official complaint with its neighbour. Italy has angered France by giving out temporary resident permits to thousands of Tunisian migrants. The permits allow them to travel freely in many European countries. The Italian foreign ministry said the French move was "illegitimate and in clear violation of general European principles". Schengen infringement? Maurizio Furia, a spokesman for the Italian rail company, said that trains were not being allowed to pass into Menton, France, from the Italian border station of Ventimiglia. France says migrants have to prove they can support themselves financially and has set up patrols on the Italian border. But Italy says that France's actions are in violation of the EU's Schengen passport-free travel zone. "We have given the migrants travel documents, and we gave everything (else) that is needed, and the European Commission recognised that, it has said that Italy is following the Schengen rules," Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said in an interview on Italy's Sky TG24 TV. Italy and other European countries have been increasingly concerned about migration from north Africa following the political turmoil in the region. Earlier this month, Italy and France agreed to launch sea and air patrols to try to prevent the influx of thousands of people from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.



This is typical of the Italians who are not particularly good at dealing with situations and if a job needs to done or if something invovles abit of extra work will always try and get out of it by passing the Buck. I work on an Italian campsite in the summer and have just arrived on it this weekend....they are still trying to complete works that were supposed to have been done over the Winter period. Ciao

In reply to by Brianm

Sorry Brianm, I disagree.........the italians that I live with are very much 'get things done merchants' albeit in their own time and way. I think the immigration issue is a MUCH wider issue for Europe (and actually the world) as a whole. I would ask ............what should Italy do ? 1. Let everyone from Africa in? OR, 2. Let no one from Africa in? OR, 3. Sink the boats? OR, 4. Is there another option ? S

In reply to by sprostoni

What has happened (in words of one syllable) is that loads of Tunisians and other north Africans (refugees - maybe) have landed on Lampedusa. Lampedusa is a small Italian island with a population of about 5,000, and by nobody's standards would it be a destination of choice. So, something like 5,000 non Italians of north african extraction are arriving each week on this small island. The Italian state (also the UN) have set up tent cities, but they want to move on these immigrants. Italy has given them travel permits (essentially temporary carte d'identita) which allows these people to travel freely within the parts of the European Union which have signed up to the Schengen treaty. Now, the French, (who have a mainland rather difficult to reach by boat from Tunisia et al), consider that the north africans (who mainly speak French) should be looked after by Italy, simply on the basis that they have first set foot on European soil on Lampedusa. So, the French are completely denying the Schengen treaty. In my opinion the French position is absolutely untenable - the "about face" by Sarkosy who was (less than a year ago) trying to push for a 'mediterranean community' is utterly gobsmacking. I think that his earlier position (get north africa onside because they are neighbours) was pretty sensible - but suddenly today he has decided he doesn't want any more "muslims" in France. Maybe there is an election pending?

I agree with Fillide. Most of the Tunisians seem to want to head to France were they have family and at least can speak the language. As the French decided to setup border patrols and none of the EU countries were helping with a huge influx of people (but at the same time loudly complaining that Italy had agreements with North African countries to send migrants back - gone quiet in that front strangely), Italy took the matter into their own hands in what I consider to be creative thinking and gave them temporary papers. The French have no basis upon which to refuse them entry unless they leave the Schengen agreement.

Im with Fillide, and if I had been on a train trying to get France yesterday I would issue a denuncia against the French government.  Their position is untenable - they want to bomb Libya but dont want any of the fall out, which includes refugees.  They wanted Ben Ali out of Tunisia, have a moral responsibility as it is an exFrench colony, but again dont want any of the fall out.  The total silence on N African refugees by the whole of Europe (with the exception of Romania) is shameful, and shows again a Europe that is runs on double standards.  As far as I am aware there are no UN refugee camps in ITaly.  There is the red cross at Ventimiglia - all the rest are protezione civile - There has been no UN resolution regarding refugees.

Sorry 'Sprostoni'There all the questions every Country has to ask, each Country (Uk, Holland, Germany, France etc has to deal with this problem. The UK do'es not operate the way the Italians have ...'pass the buck' attitude, as yiu say in their own time or way, it's just that Italy has never had to deal with mass imigration like the rest of us, so it comes with a bit of a shock.The Italians hung on to Lampedusa as part of the Empire they never had, if they had given it back! but hey were all guilty of that.At the end of the day they are Illegal Immigrants so why did Italy give them carte d'identita

I can (slightly) understand the French point of view. They don't want any more immigrants, so they are blaming Italy for having 'insecure' borders.  They are not thinking about just what they would do if Lampedusa happened to be French: would they simply turn around the overcrowded inappropriate boats which had arrived laden with north africans, and double the chances of them sinking? The 'international community' would be at Italy's throat if they did that. The Italians do escort seaworthy boats back to the north african coast. Europe has taken two positions on the uprisings. Firstly they've sent armed forces to 'secure' Libya (ha ha) and as we all know one of the prime movers was France. It doesn't require a conspiracy theorist to realise this is more about France wishing to avoid immigration than it is about oil. (It's quite odd really, since Libyans are more likely to have a fellow feeling with Italy, but the French didn't get all warmongering over Tunisia...) Secondly the EU has made all the right humanitarian noises about sheltering escapees from nasty regimes - and Italy has responded in my view appropriately. Aside from the rational impulse to ship out as many immigrants as possible into greater Europe, (in accordance with earlier comments by the EU), hence giving them travel documents, the Italians also have in place 'quotas' for each region of Italy to accommodate on a more or less permanent basis thousands of displaced Tunisians. As usual, this stuff is being coordinated by the Catholic Church within Italy. Today it seems that the EU has (presumably under pressure) said something along the lines of we didn't mean to welcome them, and are coming out of the 'side' of France. It's as if Italy isn't regarded as Europe in this context - and the practicalities are being completely ignored. Anyway, those little britainers amongst us have nothing to worry about - the UK isn't part of the Schengen treaty.

18 April 2011 France had right to halt migrant trains from Italy - EU North African migrants wait at the train station in Ventimiglia, Italy (18 April 2011)The Italian government insists the migrants have the proper paperwork to enter France Continue reading the main story

Related Stories

France acted within its rights when it halted trains carrying North African migrants crossing its border from Italy, the European Commission says. Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said French officials had cited "public order reasons". An EU spokesman also said France was not obliged to grant entry to people with the temporary residency permits given to some migrants by Italy. Italy complained that the move violated EU rules on the free right to travel. For those legally living in the 25 countries in the Schengen Area - to which France and Italy belong - no travel documents are required. 'Strong protest' Earlier on Monday, the French interior ministry said the rail link between Menton, France and Ventimiglia, Italy, was operating normally. It said there had been an "isolated problem" caused by hundreds of activists on one train planning an "undeclared demonstration" in France, and posing a problem to public order that was temporary in nature. Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

It may be that this is not covered by the Schengen border code rules. But it would seem that they had the right to do this”

Cecilia MalmstroemEuropean Commissioner for Home Affairs "At no time was there a... closing of the border between France and Italy," spokesman Pierre-Henri Brandet said. He estimated that up to 10 trains may have been affected by the disruption, five on each side of the France-Italy border. The statement came after the Italian ambassador in Paris was instructed by Foreign Minister Franco Frattini to lodge a "strong protest" of the blocking of the trains. The ambassador called the move "illegitimate and in clear violation of general European principles". While Mr Frattini acknowledged that the activists might have given them a cause of concern, he insisted it was not a "sufficient reason to justify sealing one of the most heavily used and sensitive European borders". The migrants had the proper paperwork to enter France, he added. Italy has been giving temporary residence permits to many of the 26,000 Tunisians who have entered the country illegally to escape the unrest in the region in recent weeks, overwhelming refugee centres. Many have ties to France, and Italy says they should be able to travel there. A boat carrying 600 migrants arrives in the port of Lampedusa on April 8, 2011Large numbers of North African migrants have been landing on Italian shores France has said it will grant entry to migrants holding the permits only if they can demonstrate that they can support themselves financially. At a news conference on Monday afternoon, Ms Malmstroem said she had received a letter from France explaining the "temporary" disruption was the result of "public order reasons". "It may be that this is not covered by the Schengen border code rules. But it would seem that they had the right to do this," she said. EU spokesman Michele Cercone also said the residence permits were not visas, and France was under no obligation to admit people having neither EU visas nor EU passports.

Brian - I suggest you buy a history book - 'the rest of us'? You mean the UK presumably.  Italy has had huge immigration - from Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Albania  - all the countries that had wars and problems in the last 50 years.   Italy has specifically asked, after the last time, that immigration (rightly) is a European issue - and has been roundly ignored.  Spain - at the beginning of the problem - said ' we will not leave Italy to deal with this by herself' - and then have remained very very quiet.  France said - at the beginning - that Europe would act concertedly.  It hasnt.    France is one of the most underpopulated European countries per inhabitant km/2  - if there is one European country that could easily take 20.000 people it is France, but Sarkozy is having a bit of campaign aginst the Muslims at the moment, becuase he is in deep political do-do.  End of story.  Moralilty plays no part in this, it is politics pure and simple - and the race card is a vote winner, because it is easy to inculcate a sense of xenophobia.  Fear of the unknown wins votes, but if you read your history books you will learn that the reality is very different. 

Sorry Ram, but therre is no comparison between the countries you put forward, these countries are miniscule parts of another country that was broken-up. The size and population of Croatia is roughly 56500 sq/Km, Pop: 4.5 Million. Albania's size is roughly 28500 sq/Km Pop: 3.5 Million. Even Croatia only just equates to the size and Population of all the Yorkshire Counties in the UK. The countries of France, UK and Holland have all had Millions of Immigrants..Legal & Illegal over the years in comparison to Italy. Holland has over 3 Million turkish in a population of on 17 Million, and they don't say 'This is a europe problem' and hand it over to one of the other Countries.

the French as far as i can work out blocked the border to stop the Italian protesters from the social centres..  they had organised a protest to support free movement.. however unlike Italy that accepts that private property and people will get hurt when these activists go into action the French decided to let the Italian protesters remain in Italy and make their protest their.. can you imagine what the reports would have been if an italian had been injured by the less than polite CRS who would most probably have smashed a few heads.. and if not there are usually self inflicted wounds that are shown to the tv and newspapers.. Italy accepts this way of things... and in general the magistrates let them all out without charge whatever is done.. and everything quitens down.. re immigrants.. its really nothing much to do with them.. the numbers are very low... 25-30 thousand..its to do with upcoming administrtive electionbs and the fact that Italians do not want to go the route of other european countries that have diluted their culture so much that they have none of thier own left...  much as Italians are ready to help people they are not ready to cede their life and their way of life to alternate ideas.. and as someone that moved here for the Italian way of life as much as anything i am happy with that.. anyway an agreement has been signed with Tunisa now to stop the boat loads..its cheaper to pay them to keep the people in camps than to have them here.. and once again this is a result of a political problem and the chance for tunisia to make some money... they knew italy paid libya to keep people there and they saw an opportunity for income and help from Italy... so were quite happy to let many sub saharan peoples jump into boats and make their way here.. to blackmail italy into supporting them with money... so all in all its to my mind sadlylittle to do with any human rights.. and humanity from anyone.. including the catholic church or the regions which when asked to help were pretty loathe to do so in a time where italian electors are gettin near to voting locally.. i have no answer to what is a problem that the world has created in its greed for cheap labor and oil... i do not want Italy to change or france for that matter because the diffrences are what makes europe

Italy has over 4.5 million immigrants. One million of these are from Romania - an increase of 750.000 in 5 years. Half a million Albanians, half a million Moroccans, 100,000 Chinese and so on.  France by contrast has fewer immigrants, mainly because of the curbs it has put in place since 2005.  Since 2005 the UK has had fewer than 30.000 asylum applications per year.  IN the last three months 28000 immigrants have arrived in Lampedusa.   Holland has 400,000 Turkish immigrants, not 3 million, the same number of Turks as Germans living there.   

RAM, Your quite correct, my mistake, I meant to say 3 million total immigrants including turks., in a country of 17 million. It still doe's not get away from the fact that the Italians like to 'pass the buck' I worl with Itailans all time on a campsite, tradesmen, office workers etc and the will always try eiter not do the work or pass the buck or just let it ride and let someone else take the responsibity. You only have to look at Venice, They want the EU to give funds towards saving Venice as it's a World heritage site and yet for years we have had 'The Venice in Peril' fund, and Millions of Euro's pour into Venice every year with World tourists......and they want help. Believe me, I work in Tourist business here, the Italians get the Money!!!!!!  

In reply to by Brianm

Brianm - I'm not at all certain that you are on the current wavelength in this thread. It seems to me that your bitch is that Italians are lazy barsts who like to pass the buck and do the 'manàna' stuff (like the Spanish) - and I agree that this is a position which you could convincingly argue. (Sorry, I have an Italian rather than a Spanish keyboard, and I think I needed an accent over the 'n' in manàna, but I can't be arsed to bring up the character map!) But I fail to see why you are introducing migrants/immigrants/legals/illegals/refugees into this discussion? Have I missed something?

Call me old fashioned, but I think immigration carries responsibilities on both sides. But my guess is that these are not genuine immigrants, they are refugees fleeing a temporary situation. They are saying "It's shit where I live right now so I'll go to France". And because Libya can't control it's borders at the moment - well done Mr bleedin' Cameron - disgruntled Tunisians are able to get to Italy. Brianm is right when he says that Italy should repel them but doesn't want the trouble of getting involved so have bailed out by giving them documents to travel to France - though I disagree that this is typical of the Italian way. I'm constantly surprised that France doesn't do the same with all the illegals living in "the jungle" near Calais so they can get rid of them to UK which is where they all want to be. Much of the problem rests with countries positively attracting people to try to enter (benefits, health service etc) and providing little in the way of disincentives to deter people from trying illegally. And most of that is because anyone who says or does anything against even illegal immigration is usually roundly castigated (often by the hypocrites who wish they had the balls to do/say the same wink). Just a few general observations, not an invitation for castigation thankyou. TK

Some photos of the sit in protest at Ventimiglia


  I don’t know why this issue is referred to as a ‘problem’. Whatever happened to compassion? These are people we are talking about, people who have nothing, and people who have left behind everything they know.  Why shouldn’t we in the richer EU countries share with the less fortunate?  Time for ALL EU countries to ‘walk the talk’…

It does become a problem when the immigrants are unable to find work, and have no benefits, and have to resort to 'other means' by which I mean Illegal working, stealing or Prostitution; to enable them to exist in a hostile country. It becomes a problem for the Local people and Councils of the Cities these migrants decide to stay in. A bit of a how we say NIMBY problem. The EU has enough of a problem making ends meet (look at Greece, Portugal, Ireland etc) as it is without a further drain from Economic Migration from outside the EU. Harsh, I know, but as long as some African/Eastern European States refuse to look after their own Citizens how can it be right that Europe has to add their burden to ours.   [Stands back after lighting Blue Touch paper]

In reply to by Flip

I could not have worded it better...............BUT, as they have not sorted themselves out, Italy has done it's job (of a sort), but it is only addressing the problem, NOT the CAUSE of the problem. S

  @ Flip these are the same arguments that politicians use over and over again to scaremonger us. I just don’t buy it.  I live and work in The Netharlands. Earlier this week the government decided not to issue work permits to Bulgarians who for years have come here to harvest the strawberries.  The government in its wisdom cheekyhas decided that there are enough ‘unemployed receiving full benefit’ Dutch citizens to do the job…and yes, you’ve got it in one…not one ‘fully capable unemployed on full benefit’ Dutch person has applied!  Apparently the job is beneath them!  And we saw the same attitude when we lived in the UK. You would think they would be ‘forced’ to work or receive a reduced benefit payment. I think it is arrogant for us to assume that migrants are ‘uneducated’.  For all we know, there could be doctors, teachers, lawyers and budding entrepreneurs amongst them! The EU needs migrant workers because most of us would not do the jobs they are prepared to do… manual jobs, long hours, low pay and poor working conditions. You will hardly find a Dutch citizen working in a care home here.  And the same goes for the UK where we have elderly relatives living in care homes.  On our last visit, it was a case of ‘’spot the Brit’’!  I would like to see how the NHS would cope without migrants…. ‘’a lazy couldn’t be arsed on full benefit European’’ or ‘’a willing to work migrant’’? I know where I would rather see my taxes go… And yes talking of PIGS, what about those governments responsibilities? They didn’t and to quote you ‘look after their own citizens’’  ... I am just amazed at people’s reaction to this type of story. In financial terms it is probably a fraction of the cost when compared to what it is costing us to bail out so called developed EU countries as Portugal, Ireland, Greece and (possibly) Spain. Oops sorry for the essay…smiley

Except Casa Monal, that the reason the locals became lazy in the first place is because of the short-term thinking of employers and governments in using cheap imported labour to build prosperity. To me, the only way of stopping benefits culture is to persuade the local workforce to work, especially if people think that jobs are beneath them. When the chips are down and the benefits budget runs out an economy needs to work its way back to prosperity and those countries which don't have an able and willing workforce will fail. Importation of more cheap labour simply makes a bad situation worse.

I'm with you Casa.  Immigration is used as a political football and cheap vote-mongering.  There's a case in UK this week where a woman trafficked from Moldova was sent back,despite her applying for asylum, because the authorities did not consider her at risk.  Guess what? She was kidnapped again, tortured, gang-raped and re-trafficked.  She's in the news because she had the gumption to sue the UK Government who have just paid her damages. It's worth remembering the human plight behind so many of these cases.  And to take the long view.  Remember the panic about Poles flooding the UK a few years back?  Now we're complaining we can't find any more plumbers because they've gone home again! The UK is a mongrel nation and has been ever since the Normans invaded.  And all the better for it...

As I think we all seem to agree that basically it's Economic not Humanitarian migration at the source of all these problems.... What do you think happens when a guy who has been Picking Grapes/Potatoes/Strawberries/Cockles or whatever for €3  an hour and finds himself out of a job does ?? he doesn't say 'Oh well that was good while it lasted now I'll go back to my family in Moldova/Poland/Turkey/Albania/Romania....delete as appropriate.... no he goes about trying to find money to live off anyway he can..... Long story Short...if Counties diidn't allow 'Cheap Labour' in in the first place this scenario would not exist, this suituation is fueled by the greed that exists in Europe, wether it be Banking, The Economy, Retail or your small farmer trying to avoid paying taxes. We need to look at the source of all this and I think you'll find it's supply and demand....cut off the supply of cheap labour and the problem will fix it self, and you wont get the likes of Tesco/Primark etc posting huge profits on the back of peoples misery... Here endeth the lecture...

Oh and another thing it's not about being Lazy and feckless; if some one was to offer you €3 and hour to slave away in the sun all day or €5 to stay at home what would you do..???? Honestly it's the benefit system that needs changing, and that you can't blame on have a vote USE IT!!!!

I agree with alot that has been said by the previous posts. While i agree that there lots of British people not prepared to work period, and are quite happy to live of benefits, there are also a lot of people who used to do these so called 'jobs the Brits are not prepared to do" like picking fruit & Veg in Norfolk. the problem was that with the cost of living, inflation, loosing their 'tied' accommodation etc could not continue to earn enough to live. I have a Brother-in-law who did exactly that, but changed his job to a warehouse. The farm jobs are then vacant and to the immigrants £3hr seems good by the standards in their country, the farmers are also happy. Now a lot of the originl immigrants such as the Polish have and are going back because the went into the EU and things are looking better at home.....thats great, but with higher standards, inflation and the free market they will start complaining that they need to earn more to pay for their better life, which is exactly why we cant afford to work for £3hr........back to square one! 

  I fully agree that the current benefit system in the UK is an ‘enabling’ system. I’m sure there are many unscrupulous employers who employ illegal immigrants and pay them well below the minimum wage.  I recall seeing several BBC programmes where reporters went undercover, investigating pay & working conditions from cleaners to carers to the sad tragedy of the Chinese cockle pickers in Morecombe Bay. Even the head of the CPS in Scotland had employed an illegal nanny from Thailand! I can only speak about The Netherlands and referring to the example I gave in my previous post, the Bulgarians are offered the exact same minimum wage that any Dutch citizen would get e.g.  aged 23 years and older - Euro 9.13 p.h. for a 36 hour week, 8.65 p.h. for a 38 hour week, 8.22 p.h. for a 40 hour week plus accommodation, leave and holiday bonus.  The controls are much stricter here and benefits are reduced or stopped if someone refuses to accept a job that they are quite capable of doing. But back to the original discussion, I think if someone is prepared to leave everything behind that they have ever known (family, culture etc) and in most cases risk their lives just to have the same opportunities that we take for granted i.e. a chance to improve their own and their families’ lives, we should help them, in whatever way we can.

The Dutch clearly agree with you, being as they are, one of the most overcrowded countries in the world. If their population growth continues as it has been doing, they may wonder about the future now that the gas which gave them their prosperity has just about run out.

22 April 2011 

Share this page


France seeks change to Schengen border       agreement Migrants on one of the trains in Rome leaving for France (image from 21/4/2011)Italy accused France of overstepping the treaty by blocking trains with migrants at the border Continue reading the main story


France has called for an easier mechanism to temporarily suspend an agreement which allows freedom of movement across 25 European countries. The move follows an influx of migrants from Tunisia and Libya into Italy. Italy's decision to grant Tunisians 20,000 temporary residence permits, allowing free travel in the passport-free Schengen zone, has angered France. Last week, French officials temporarily stopped trains with migrants crossing the border from Italy into France. The decision sparked anger between Italy and France, with Italy accusing its neighbour of overstepping the treaty on border-free travel. Exceptional circumstances In an off-the-record but widely-reported briefing, a senior French official said: "The governance of Schengen is failing. It seems there is a need to reflect on a mechanism that will allow a temporary suspension of the agreement, in case of a systemic failure of an external (EU) border." The official, at the presidential Elysee Palace, said that any such an intervention would be provisional, until any "weakness" in the system was corrected. The BBC's Hugh Schofield, in Paris, says that this is a highly controversial idea, deliberately floated by the French government just before the Easter break when any reaction from Brussels will inevitably be slow in coming. Suspension of the agreement is permitted under the Schengen Pact, but only in the case of a "grave threat to the public order or internal security". Under the current agreement, in these exceptional circumstances, border controls can only initially be reintroduced for a maximum of 30 days. Mr Sarkozy is due to address the problem of migrants entering France through Italy when he meets Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday in Rome. Earlier this month, Italy and France agreed to launch sea and air patrols to try to prevent the influx of thousands of people from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Many Tunisians have close ties with France - a former colonial power - with friends and relatives in French cities.

26 April 2011 Last updated at 01:37 GMT r France and Italy seek to defuse Schengen migration row Tunisian migrants at Rome's Termini train station - 21 April 2011Many Tunisian migrants arriving in Italy are heading to France where they have relatives Continue reading the main story

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is due to meet Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to discuss tensions over migrants from North Africa.

Italy has angered France by granting visas to thousands of migrants, allowing them to travel across Europe's border-free Schengen zone. About 25,000 migrants have arrived in southern Italy so far this year. Rome has called for EU help with their care. Many of the migrants are Tunisian and want to join relatives in France. Earlier this month the two countries agreed to joint sea and air patrols to try to stop African migrants reaching Europe. The unrest in North Africa has triggered a huge movement of migrants to Europe. Many head first to the Italian island of Lampedusa, which lies about 120km (75 miles) off the Tunisian coast. France promised to honour the temporary visas Italy has granted the migrants but has said it will turn away those who cannot support themselves financially. Last week, French gendarmes sent back Tunisian migrants trying to cross the border from Italy. There are reports that officials from both countries have reached agreement on amending the Schengen treaty so that national border checks can be reintroduced. The 1995 Schengen treaty allows legal residents of most EU countries, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland to travel across the zone without visas. Mr Sarkozy and Mr Berlusconi are also due to discuss French takeovers of Italian firms and the two countries' response to the unrest in Libya.

I read the piece posted by Casa Monal (thanks for keeping this in the forefront), and at first reading I thought that the word 'visa' was misused. It wasn't - and that is the 'legitimate beef' which the French have with Italy (IMO). Italy did not merely grant the fleeing migrants a temporary Carta d'Identita - they granted some form of document 'valido per l'espatria'. I'm resident in Italy, (for so long that I could get an Italian passport if I wanted, and if I did become a citizen I could travel Schengen without my UK passport) but I cannot enter France et al on my Italian CdI. Quite what legal basis Italy has for granting visas to non Italians is a bit obscure to me. So - how are Silvio and Nicolas going to resolve this? If Silvio gets saddled with the substantial numbers of already arrived (probably) refugees he's not going to be inclined to be hospitable to the next influx. This is clearly a situation that Europe has to deal with - and if Europe deals with it sensitively with any luck it can be a short term difficulty. It doesn't seem to me that any sensitivity is being shown at the moment - Maroni has come up with a clever ruse, quite possibly illegal, and the French have called his bluff.  

26 April 2011 Last updated at 14:58 GMT                                                                                                                       From the BBC website              

Share this page

France and Italy push for reform of Schengen treaty Click to play     Nicolas Sarkozy: "Schengen should be reformed" Continue reading the main story


The leaders of France and Italy have said Europe's Schengen open-border treaty should be revised. The move by President Nicolas Sarkozy and PM Silvio Berlusconi comes after they met to discuss the recent rise in North African migration to Europe. Italy has angered France by granting visas to thousands of migrants, allowing them to travel across Europe's border-free Schengen zone. About 25,000 migrants have arrived in southern Italy so far during 2011. Many have fled unrest in North Africa, and among them are thousands of Tunisians hoping to join relatives in France. Both Mr Berlusconi and Mr Sarkozy are facing domestic pressure from right-wing parties to curb large-scale immigration. The Schengen treaty allows legal residents of most EU countries, plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland to travel across the zone with only minimal border checks. 'Exceptional difficulties' The two leaders have jointly written to senior EU officials asking that the treaty be investigated. Continue reading the main story

Gavin Hewitt's Europe

“Start Quote

From the start the Italian government set out to make this a European problem”

image of Gavin HewittGavin HewittBBC Europe editor

"The situation concerning migration in the Mediterranean could rapidly transform into a crisis that would undermine the trust that our compatriots have in the [principle] of freedom of travel within Schengen," the letter says, according to excerpts published by German news agency DPA. It is necessary to "examine the possibility to temporarily re-establish controls within [Schengen] borders in the case of exceptional difficulties," the letter continues. Speaking at a news conference in Rome after their meeting, Mr Berlusconi said neither Italy nor France wanted the treaty to end. "But in exceptional circumstances, we both believe that there should be variations to the Schengen treaty, and we've decided to work on that together," he said. In addition, he said there should be a "principle of solidarity" among European countries, and that southern states along the Mediterranean should not be left on their own to deal with the problems posed by mass immigration. France and Italy would also ask the Tunisian government to collaborate with them in dissuading migrants from coming to Europe, Mr Berlusconi said. Mr Sarkozy said the Schengen agreement had to be reformed if it was to survive. Click to play     The BBC's Matthew Price joins migrants travelling from Ventimiglia in Italy to France "We have the euro, we have reformed the European economy - we would like to see the same thing done to Schengen," he said. The BBC's Duncan Kennedy in Rome says it is a sign of the depth of the tensions created by the migration crisis that they two countries are seeking a revision of the treaty. Neither country wants to accommodate the North Africa migrants and both want to ensure the situation is not repeated in the future, says our correspondent, so they are calling on Brussels to resolve the problem. But, he adds, the treaty took years to negotiate so revising it will not be a simple process. Patrols Migrants heading to Europe from North Africa often arrive at the Italian island of Lampedusa, which lies about 120km (75 miles) off the Tunisian coast. The upheavals across the Arab world have triggered a huge wave of migration, and Italy has complained it is being left to cope with the influx alone. Earlier this month Italy and France agreed to joint sea and air patrols to try to stop African migrants reaching Europe. Continue reading the main story

Schengen agreement

  • In June 1985, leaders from Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands met in Schengen, Luxembourg, and agreed gradually to abolish checks at shared borders
  • Full convention came into effect a decade later, also covering Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece
  • Created single external border, harmonised some rules on asylum and visas, enhanced police and judicial co-operation and established shared information database
  • Irish Republic and UK co-operate in certain aspects of Schengen but border checks retained
  • Austria joined agreement in 1997, followed by Nordic countries in 2000. Nine new EU member states were incorporated in 2007 and Switzerland in 2008

France promised to honour the temporary visas Italy has granted the migrants but has said it will turn away those who cannot support themselves financially. Last week, French police temporarily blocked an Italian train carrying Tunisian migrants from entering France. Aid agencies have said Europe needs to keep a sense of perspective on the migrants because only a small fraction of those leaving their homes were travelling to Europe. The International Organization for Migration said many more migrants remained in North African countries than in Europe, and it was African nations that were bearing the biggest burden of caring for them. Mr Sarkozy also used Tuesday's meeting to praise Italy's earlier announcement that it was sending aircraft to Libya to take part in Nato air strikes. He said that given Rome's close historical ties to Libya, "who could possibly believe that Italy would not take part in the work of the coalition to allow Libyans to live in freedom after 41 years of dictatorship?" The two leaders also called for an end to the violent repression of anti-government protests in Syria.

Do not be surprised about the silent attitude of the Spanish government. Besides having an election in May and a 20% unemployment rate, Sapin has had more than its fair share of immigrants over the past 10 years. It also has a geographical position similar to Italy, with boats arriving from North Africa every day. This gives you an idea of the size of the problem, which is becoming a major political issue: