The Italian government is considering a “nuclear option” to clear out thousands of migrants, which involves issuing temporary visas that would allow them to leave the country and move to other European Union countries.
More than 101,417 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean sea during 2017, with almost 85 percent arriving in Italy. The Italian government has threatened to close its ports for foreign ships if other EU countries don’t help out.
Senior Italian officials told The Times Saturday that the government has discussed exploiting European Council Directive 2001/55, which was created after the war in former Yugoslavia to give temporary protection to displaced people.
“If migrants continue to arrive and Italy decides to give them papers to cross borders and leave Italy it would be a nuclear option,” Mattia Toaldo, a senior analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told The Times. “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.'”
With 200,000 migrants in detention centers across Italy, such a solution could put immense pressure on neighboring countries as the visas would allow them to travel freely across the Schengen Area.
“Letting migrants travel once they reach Italy would create a real problem for our EU neighbors,” Luigi Manconi, an Italian senator with the ruling Democratic Party, told The Times. “But I hope it would force France to confront the migrant problem head on.”
So far, 2,353 drownings have been reported on the Mediterranean Sea this year, according to the Missing Migrants Project.
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