EU says Tunisia will take migrants back

April 2, 2011 at 3:43 PM

BRUSSELS, April 2 (UPI) -- Tunisia is willing to take back its citizens who have fled to Italy, but Europe must help resettle refugees from Libya, a top European official says.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom spoke in Brussels Friday after a visit to Tunis, EUobserver reported.

She hailed Tunisia as the country where the Arab revolt started and the generosity of its people, who have aided 220,000 refugees at the Libyan border.

But "the refugee camp can only work if there is an outflow as well," she said, and international agencies need EU help repatriating non-Libyans.

Some 100,000 people have already been flown to their Asian and African homelands, but thousands need international protection and cannot be returned to places like Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan.

Malmstrom said her country, Sweden, has offered to take a few hundred people, and "I hope the rest of member states show that EU solidarity works in practice."

She said the new Tunisian interior minister has agreed to "a well-managed, organized and gradual repatriation" of the 20,000 Tunisians who have sailed to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa.

She also denied Italy's claims that the EU is not giving it enough money to cope with the influx.

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