EU-ministre varsler at sammenbruddet i Gaddafis regime kan resultere i en «tidevannsbølge» av flyktninger og illegale innvandrere til Europa.

Representanter i Brussel tror at så mange som 750.000 flyktninger kan forsøke å krysse Middelhavet for å nå Sydeuropa. Det libanesiske anslaget er imidlertid så høyt som 2 millioner, et anslag som inkluderer et stort antall illegale innvandrere fra sørlige områder av Afrika og som kan benytte de lovløse tilstandene i Libya til å komme seg videre til Europa:

An accord signed between the EU and Tripoli last year has helped combat the flow of illegal immigrants. But with diplomats claiming Col Gaddafi’s 42-year rule could be in its death throes, southern Europe is being warned to prepare for a fresh influx of migrants.

Col Gaddafi had earlier threatened to withdraw border and coastal patrols, warning «Europe will become black» if he ceased co-operation over immigration.

But while EU diplomats insisted he was in no position to make such threats, some Mediterranean countries said it was inevitable the sudden collapse of his regime would lead to a major increase in those heading to Europe. Italy, which has close industrial and business ties with Libya, and where the vast majority of African immigrants make landfall, urged a cautious response to the latest developments.

Italia står allerede overfor en innvandringskrise etter ankomsten av over 5.000 tunisiere til øya Lampedusa siden forrige måned. Titusenvis av illegale innvandrere fra Nordafrika og Sub-Sahara forsøker å reise fra Tunisias og Libyas kyst til Italia og Malta hvert år.

With the backing of Malta, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told a meeting of EU ministers that if Col Gaddafi fell, the EU would face a flood of immigrants.

He said: «Italy, as you know, is the closest neighbour, both of Tunisia and Libya, so we are extremely concerned about the repercussions on the migratory situation in the southern Mediterranean.»

He added: «We need a European comprehensive action plan. We should support all peaceful transitional processes that are ongoing in the Middle East while avoiding a patronising position.»

He also warned of a power vacuum leading to the formation of an Islamic state in the east of the country.

The Independent: Fears immigrants will flood Europe after collapse