In retaliation to the EU’s inaction on the redistribution of migrants across the bloc, Italy is considering introducing temporary visas that would allow migrants to travel across the EU. Italy has for long been complaining that the other EU member states are not sharing the burden of the huge number of people crossing the Mediterranean. Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Mario Giro thus warned that his country was “in a tug of war” and the visas were an option despite the fact that the government had earlier said that it was not considering them.
Although Mr. Giro said that the Italian government wanted to avoid unilateral gestures, he also added that that Italy was against the EU law that keeps migrants in their country of arrival. “We don’t accept being turned into a European hotspot, or feeling guilty because we rescue people, so deciding what to do with the migrants who arrive is everyone’s responsibility,” he added. Rome has in the past angered many EU governments with a decision to offer residence permits to migrants in 2011 when North Africa was going through a series of popular uprisings.
According to Enzo Bianco, mayor of the Sicilian port town of Catania where 10,000 migrants have been rescued off the coast of Libya this year, issuing visas again would irritate EU countries but also push them towards concrete steps to help his country. “We are allowed to use these tools, and it’s a good thing to remind Europe of its duty to be more responsible,” Mr. Bianco commented. This year, Italy has accommodated more than 93,000 migrants coming mainly from sub-Saharan Africa and Bangladesh, marking a 17-percent increase on the same period last year.