Sea and air patrols to stem tide of migrants

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The Independent Online

Italy and France are setting up joint sea-and-air patrols to try to block Tunisian migrants from sailing to European shores. Rome and Paris have been sparring fiercely over what to do about the more than 20,000 Tunisians who sailed across the Mediterranean to Italy in recent weeks after political upheaval in their North African homeland.

But some concessions seemed to emerge in a meeting in Milan between Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni and his French counterpart, Claude Gueant. "We have agreed on developing common action," Mr Maroni said, and both sides would "take initiatives to block the departure of clandestine migrants from Tunisia" with the joint sea-and-air patrols.

Only a day earlier, Mr Maroni accused France of harbouring a hostile attitude toward the migrants from Tunisia, a former French colony. Paris, in turn, had vowed to tighten its own border controls in possible violation of EU-wide border rules so that migrants could not cross into French territory from north-west Italy.

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