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Italy

Refugee crisis: UN urges EU help Italy with 'collective action'

The UN refugee agency has pressured the European Union to help Italy cope with the thousands of migrants flooding its shores. Italy has threatened to refuse people arriving on boats not flying Italian flags.

Italy is "playing its part" in taking in rescued migrants and offering protection to those in need, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Saturday, but "these efforts must be continued and strengthened. This cannot be an Italian problem alone."

"What is happening in front of our eyes in Italy is an unfolding tragedy," Grandi said in a statement.

"In the course of last weekend, 12,600 migrants and refugees arrived on its shores, and an estimated 2,030 have lost their lives in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year."

Read more: Italy is running out of patience

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Italy threatens to close ports to aid groups

Europe has to get fully involved through an "urgent distribution system" of migrants and should widen legal channels so that migrants can be admitted, Grandi said.

On Thursday, the EU's migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, promised more financial support for Italy and urged member states to demonstrate greater solidarity. 

Tackling the causes

Grandi also called for greater international efforts to tackle the causes of migration, to protect people and to fight trafficking.

Since the beginning of the year, 83,650 people have reached Italy by sea, an increase of nearly 20 percent compared to the same period last year, according to UN figures.

Many of the migrants need health care and support, including a large number of unaccompanied children and victims of sexual violence. 

The number of migrant children arriving alone doubled between 2015 and 2016, reaching 25,846 at the end of last year.

The interior ministers of France, Germany and Italy are meeting in Paris on Sunday to discuss a "coordinated approach" to provide support for Italy.

jbh/cmk (AFP, UN)

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