Flood of North African refugees to Italy ends EU passport-free travel

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The Independent Online

Six more boatloads of migrants, mostly Libyans, arrived at the Italian island of Lampedusa yesterday, exacerbating a refugee crisis that already appears to have ended the long-standing Schengen arrangement for passport-free movement around Europe.

In Italy, which has born the brunt of waves of migrants fleeing turmoil first in Tunisia and now Libya, key members of the government were again warning about the repercussions of Nato's bombing campaign across the Mediterranean.

"For this reason we have continually pressed for a strong diplomatic response to the situation in Libya," said Italy's interior minister Roberto Maroni, of the anti-immigration Northern League party, who has repeatedly called for an end to Italy's role in Nato air raids. "Otherwise there is no way to stop the boats."

Ignazio Accomando, from the National Institute for the Health of Migrants, told the Ansa news agency: "About 2,000 migrants are expected to arrive on the island. They are tired, worn out, dehydrated and with some bruises, but overall there are no particularly grave health cases."

The UN warned yesterday that one in 10 migrants fleeing Libya by sea is likely to die during the crossing. The arrival of tens of thousands of North Africans has caused political fall-out across Europe with the EU preparing to reintroduce passport checks among Schengen-zone countries, after pressure from France and Italy. The cracks in the Schengen zone appeared to widen this week when Denmark decided to reinstate controls on its borders with Germany and Sweden to clamp down, it said, on drug and weapons smuggling.

In Libya, at least 16 civilians were said to have died during Nato raids on the eastern city of Brega yesterday. Libyan state television reported the news, which had not been verified independently.

*Egyptian authorities have detained Suzanne Mubarak, wife of deposed President Hosni Mubarak. Mr Mubarak has been questioned several times, but this is the first time his wife has faced interrogation.

'You can't get me', taunts Gaddafi after strikes

The voice of Muammar Gaddafi has been broadcast on Libyan radio to scotch rumours he was killed in a Nato air strike on a compound in Tripoli earlier this week. "I live in a place where you can't get to me," he said. It followed suggestions by the Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, that Colonel Gaddafi had "probably" been injured and had left Tripoli. The Libyan government denied either had happened. It was reported on Monday that the International Criminal Court prosecutor will apply for arrest warrants for Col Gaddafi, his son Saif al Islam and spy chief Abdullah al Senussi for crimes against humanity.