EU working to return Tunisians

April 9, 2011 at 12:05 PM

BRUSSELS, April 9 (UPI) -- Frontex, the EU border agency, says it is working to develop a protocol with Tunisia to make it easier to return illegal immigrants.

More than 22,000 migrants, mostly Tunisian citizens, have fled Tunisia to the Italian island of Lampedusa since the ouster of dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January, EUobserver reported.

Italy said it has been able to return just two to four people a day to Tunisia.

"For the time being there have been no joint returns to Tunisia coordinated by Frontex, as we have no working arrangement with the relevant authority," said Frontex chief Ilka Laitinen.

Laitinen said if Frontex had a working arrangement with Tunis it could arrange for more repatriations and could reimburse the cost of those flights to the Italian government.

"This is easier said than done," Laitinen said of the repatriations. "The decisive ingredient is to have the green light from the local government.

"Tunisians so far have been very critical on returns. They have only allowed very few migrants being flown back, and only on Tunisian airlines, no chartered flights … our aim now is to get a working agreement with Tunisia as soon as possible."

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