Italian Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi rushed to Lampedusa, a tiny Italian island located 70 miles from Tunisia after learning that migrants from North Africa have "invaded" the island, with thousands more arriving by boats from war-torn Libya.
The Italian Prime Minister learned that illegal immigrants now outnumber the island's population. Lampedusa has 5,000 residents but there are now 6,000 illegal immigrants from neighboring North African countries living on the small island. Last week migrants coming from war-torn Libya started arriving in the island.
Berlusconi, who is the first Italian Prime Minister to visit Lampedusa island, assured residents the illegal migrants will be removed within 60 hours.
‘The embarkation of illegal immigrants has already begun at the port – and within 60 hours at the most Lampedusa will once again belong to the Lampedusans,’ he said. He told them: ‘I am going to nominate you for the Nobel Peace prize.’, mailonline reports.
Arrival of migrants from other countries has reached at least 20,000 but most of them have already left or transferred to the mainland.
During his visit to the island, Berlusconi who is facing trial for sex charges with an underage woman, has found time to make a joke. He told his audience, ‘According to a survey, when asked if they would like to have sex with me, 30 per cent said, “Yes”, while the other 70 per cent replied, “What, again?”.’
Residents of the island have voiced concerns about possible health hazards and shortage of basic necessities resulting from uncontrolled migration.
"The government has been forced to transport food and water to Lampedusa. Local residents have held regular protests, including using fishing boats to block ships carrying rescued immigrants from entering the port", SFGate reports.
The Prime Minister assured them he will do everything possible within his power to help the tiny island restore its "paradise image".
"The migrants who arrive on the docks of Lampedusa's port will be immediately put on boats for other destinations," either back to Tunisia or detention centers elsewhere in Italy, Berlusconi told a news conference.