Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Wednesday that Italy’s Lampedusa Island in the Mediterranean Sea would be cleared of North African refugees within 60 hours.
Lampedusa has been overcome with at least 6,000 immigrants from revolution-hit North Africa, and has exceeded the local population.
“Within 48-60 hours, only local residents will remain on Lampedusa,” Berlusconi said after arriving on the island personally to look into the critical situation.
Refugees began arriving at the Italian island in February after a wave of coups hit several North African countries. Lampedusa, which is geographically closer to Tunisia than to Italy, has been overcrowded mostly with refugees from Tunisia. A month of riots across the country resulted in a so-called Jasmine Revolution on January 14.
The beginning of February saw Egyptians oust President Hosni Mubarak in a similar revolution.
Libya has been engulfed in confrontation between the opposition and its 42-year ruler Gaddafi since mid-February. When the opposition took up arms, the UN Security Council voted for aerial bombing of Gaddafi-controlled strongholds and army bases, which began on March 19. On Sunday, NATO began taking over control of the operation carried out by leading Western nations.
ROME, March 30 (RIA Novosti)