Italy plots 'nuclear option' to migrant crisis by giving EU visas to 200,000 incomers and sending them north as the country struggles with 'human warehouse'
- European Council Directive 2001/55 was developed after the Balkans conflict to give temporary European entry permits to a large number of displaced people
- Now some Italian officials say that they may use it to issue visas to migrants
- The country is struggling to absorb the numbers seeking refuge on its shores
- More than 86,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Italy this year
Italian government officials have threatened to issue temporary EU visas to thousands of migrants in an effort to deal with Italy's escalating migrant and refugee crisis that would allow new arrivals to travel north.
In what has been described as a 'nuclear option,' Italian government officials have threatened to allow 200,000 migrants who enter the country to travel across Europe by using a Brussels directive, The Times reports.
Italy has previously called on its EU neighbours to help with the escalating humanitarian crisis but it has been disappointed by their lack of action.
Migrants wait to disembark from the NGO (Non-government organization) Medecins Sans Frontier Vos Prudence ship after being rescued at sea, at Salerno's harbor, Italy, on Friday
Due to its geographic location, Italy has been one of the first entry points for people fleeing from the south to reach Europe.
More than 86,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Italy already this year.
Italy has been struggling to cope with a huge increase in people fleeing north Africa.
Hundreds of asylum seekers are now packed into overcrowded centres in small villages throughout the country which have been dubbed 'human warehouses' by locals.
Mattia Toaldo, a senior analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told The Times: 'If migrants continue to arrive and Italy decides to give them papers to cross borders and leave Italy it would be a nuclear option.
'Italians have lost any hope of getting help from the EU and may say, 'If you won't make it a common challenge, we will.'
Migrants landed from the 'Vos Prudence' Ship of Doctors Without Borders in the port of Salerno on Friday. On board were 118 women, 5 newborns, over 100 unaccompanied minors
Mario Giro, the deputy foreign minister, and Luigi Manconi, a senator with the ruling Democratic Party, told The Times that issuing migrants with temporary visas was under discussion.
Mr Giro believes that Italy can exploit European Council Directive 2001/55, developed after the Balkans conflict to give temporary European entry permits to a large number of displaced people.
If Italy does pursue this course of action, support for the Schengen scheme, which allows all EU citizens to travel freely across the Continent, may be in jeopardy.
The Italian rescue ship Vos Prudence run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) arrives in the port of Salerno carrying 935 migrants, including 16 children and 7 pregnant women on Friday
It may also seriously escalate tensions with neighbouring France and Austria, which have used dogs and the threat of armoured vehicles to push back migrants who try to enter by that route previously.
France 24 reports that vast white tents erected in a former military zone on the outskirts of the tiny village of Conetta, house some 1,400 men from across Africa, packed onto endless rows of bunks.
And even when they escape the tent confines they are often encounter hostile banners calling for them to leave as tensions mount in the country.
Migrants wait to disembark from Medecins Sans Frontier's Vos Prudence ship after being rescued at sea. Italy is struggling to cope with the numbers of people arriving on its shores
'I used to call this place a modern lager,' Cona mayor Albero Panfilio told AFP, referring to concentration camps. The commune of Cona includes the little village of Conetta.
'After two years this is (still) a place where human beings are squashed in together, with no hope for the future.
Men, women and children disembark at Salerno's harbor, Italy, after being rescued at sea
'Now I call it a human warehouse. The migrants arrive, they don't know where to put them, they have a warehouse, they dump them here.' The asylum seekers were treated 'like garbage', he added.
Around 10 kilometres away (6.2 miles) in Bagnoli di Sopra, some 700 migrants are crowded into another former military base surrounded by barbed wire fences with no access to journalists.
Italy is struggling to cope with the numbers arriving at its shores and does not feel that other EU countries are adequately helping them manage the rising crisis
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