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Nearly 6,000 immigrants died on the frontiers of Europe since 1988

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  • Nearly 6,000 immigrants died on the frontiers of Europe since 1988

    MELILLA / RABAT - Two men were killed in the latest attempt by African migrants to storm Spain's border fence with Morocco, and at least one of them was likely shot, Spanish and Moroccan officials have said said.

    The men died when up to 70 migrants rushed the 6-metre high fence at dawn on Monday local time with make-shift ladders.

    Moroccan guards fired warning shots to stop them entering Spain's African enclave of Melilla, the officials said.

    It was the first mass assault on Spain's African enclaves since October 2005. Then, six men were shot dead when Moroccan troops opened fire on more than 100 migrants.

    One of the dead men fell onto the Spanish side of the fence while the other died on the way to a Moroccan hospital. At least eight others were seriously injured by razor wire.

    "We have various hypotheses but the first we are working on is that the cause of death was a gunshot," Spanish government official Jose Fernandez Chacon said of the migrant whose body was recovered in Melilla.

    Madrid has since sent more troops to its border and doubled the height of its border fence to block migrants who spend months travelling through Africa in the hope of reaching Europe.

    Separately on Monday, Moroccan authorities found the bodies of 21 migrants who drowned when a boat carrying them towards Spain's Canary Islands sank off the coast of West Sahara.

    Eighteen corpses were washed up shortly after dawn on Monday and three were found later, Moroccan officials said.

    >>>Source<<<

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    April 14, 2011 -- European Commission President José Manuel Barroso visited Tunisia this week to discuss the harraga crisis. "This phenomenon is likely to be linked to criminal networks, and, therefore, it’s in the interest of everyone to stop it," Barroso said after meeting with Interim President Foued Mebazaa in Tunis on Tuesday (April 12th). Illegal immigration, however, "shouldn’t constitute an obstacle before the Tunisian-European relations," Barroso said, adding that "Europe hopes to develop legal immigration with Tunisia and to ease the requirements for obtaining visa for a number of categories". Barroso's visit comes as the European Union considers raising allocations to Tunisia over the next two years to about 400 million euros. Last week, some 23,000 illegal immigrants who arrived in Italy after the Tunisian revolution were granted temporary humanitarian visas.

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    April 8, 2011 -- Some 23,000 illegal immigrants who arrived in Italy after the Tunisian revolution were granted temporary humanitarian visas on Thursday (April 8th), TAP reported. Under the decree signed Thursday by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the Tunisian immigrants may travel within the Schengen zone for six months. The measure applies only to harragas who arrived before the Tunisia-Italy immigration accord of April 5th. Italy also agreed to support SMEs and other income-generating activities in areas where harragas originate.

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    April 6, 2011 -- Tunisia and Italy on Tuesday (April 5th) signed a technical co-operation agreement to curb illegal immigration. The accord envisages measures to provide logistical support, solve repatriation issues and improve border control to prevent harragas from exiting Tunisia. "This has been a long task which has not been easy," Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said at an April 5th press conference in Tunis. "A phase of co-operation between the two sides is beginning which we will have to keep up with."

    A sudden swell in the migratory flow from Tunisia to Italy put the relations between the two countries under strain, with Italy offering to deploy security forces in Tunisia in February. Tunisia categorically rejected the call as "an interference with its internal affairs or efforts to undermine its sovereignty". According to the Italian government, over 19,000 Tunisian harragas have arrived on Lampedusa this year, provoking the ire of the local population. Demonstrations took place on the island last week, with people demanding an urgent solution to the crisis.

    Tunisian Interim President Foued Mebazaa said during his Monday meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that the "relations of friendship and co-operation" make it possible to work out the appropriate means to deal with the problem within the framework of common interest. For his part, Berlusconi stressed the importance of concerted efforts and enhanced collaboration in combating illegal immigration from Tunisia to Italy. "We understand these youths who were deprived of democracy, freedom and social welfare, and who decide to immigrate to Europe, seen as an El Dorado by people from the South in search of a new start in life," Berlusconi told reporters on Monday. With regards to repatriation, the Italian chief official said that immigrants would be deported in a civilised manner. "The migratory flux continues: in the night from Saturday to Sunday 800 Tunisian migrants disembarked - thus the necessity to find a solution," Berlusconi said, promising financial aid to ensure "efficient (land and sea) control".

    Tunisia is not against returning its migrant citizens, provided that the deportation takes place without the use of force, Secretary of State to Foreign Affairs Radhouane Nouice said in a radio statement. "Returning immigrants home must take place step by step, across a number of stages and within the framework of a comprehensive programme," he said. He also noted that Tunisia had received about 30,000 refugees, addressed their needs and ensured their safe return home in the best of circumstances. "Rich countries need to help poor or developing countries, suffering from unemployment so as to develop programmes to accommodate those young people who seek nothing but work," Nouicer maintained.

    Last month, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on his visit to Tunisia that his country would provide aid in the form of equipment and tools, estimated at 80 million euros, to monitor the Tunisian coasts as well as train the police force and patrol guards. He said that Italy would also provide "financial assistance for the return of migrants".

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    April 5, 2011 -- Tunisia and Italy on Monday (April 4th) agreed to co-operate on curbing illegal immigration. Interim Prime Minister Béji Caïd Essebsi and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reached the agreement after meeting in Tunis on Monday. Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni will finalise the details of the immigration accord on Tuesday in Tunis, Berlusconi said. Thousands of Tunisian harragas have arrived on Lampedusa this year, compared to 25 for all of 2010.

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