Asylum Seekers Should Work for Free, Says Italy's Interior Minister


The Italian interior minister has suggested that asylum seekers should work for free as the country creaks under the burden of thousands of immigrants arriving via the Mediterranean sea each week.

Angelino Alfano made the announcement yesterday in a meeting with regional mayors as it was reported that another 9,000 migrants flocked to Italy this week alone.

Italian officials have repeatedly called for assistance in rescuing and resettling migrants crossing from North Africa into Europe. More than 30,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean into Italy so far this year and tensions and tensions are only increasing, with anti-migrant rhetoric from politicians and locals threatening to turn into violence.

In the meeting, Alfano said: "We must ask the municipalities to apply our directive and make migrants work for free... Rather than leave them with nothing to do, they should make them work."

The statement echoed a previous announcement by the Italian interior ministry's immigration chief, Mario Morcone, who said that migrants should be employed on environmental projects "for the common good," where they would only qualify for health insurance and would not be paid a salary.

Asylum seekers cannot legally work in Italy until six months after they have applied for a work permit, meaning that many of them are unemployed. The recent deluge has also created regional tensions, with Val d'Aoste in northwestern Italy saying on Wednesday that they will refuse to accept any additional migrants.

In response to the deaths of thousands of migrants being smuggled across the Mediterranean, the European Union last month promised to triple its funding to maritime operations in the region.

Prior to this commitment, the EU's Triton operation had replaced the Italian navy's search and rescue mission, Mare Nostrum. However, Triton's €2.9 million monthly budget was less than a third of Mare Nostrum's and the operation focused on border patrol within 30 miles of the Italian coast, as compared to Mare Nostrum's 27,000 square mile area.

Under the new arrangements, however, migrants are still picked up and taken to the nearest European country, usually Italy or Malta due to their relative proximity. They are housed in reception, or sometimes detention, centres but often flee and attempt to enter other European countries.

Along with Italy, Greece has also seen a threefold increase in the number of migrants arriving illegally by sea, with more than 10,000 coming in the first quarter of this year.

The International Organisation for Migration has today called for investigations into recent sinkings of migrant boats. The organisation estimates that total migrant deaths from Mediterranean crossings stand at 1,829 for 205, almost 10 times the amount in the same period last year.