Italy has threatened to issue 200,000 migrants with temporary EU visas as it struggles to cope with rising numbers reaching its shores.
Senior government officials are understood to be looking at a little-known Brussels directive to hand out residence permits allowing migrants access to full working rights, housing and benefits for up to two years.
It would also potentially allow them to travel throughout Europe under the Schengen scheme.
The UK is not part of the agreement but the provocative move would infuriate France and Austria, with whom Italy shares borders, and has been called a ‘nuclear option’.
Many of the migrants arriving in Italy are fleeing horrors in Libya, although the UN Refugee Agency this month said that seven in ten were economic migrants rather than refugees (stock photo)
More than 86,000 have landed in Italy so far this year after being rescued in the Mediterranean as they attempt the perilous crossing.
Many are fleeing horrors in Libya, although the UN Refugee Agency this month said that seven in ten were economic migrants rather than refugees.
The number of migrants in detention centres across Italy has reached capacity at almost 200,000 – prompting protests this weekend.
Mario Giro, the deputy foreign minister, and Luigi Manconi, a senator with the ruling Democratic Party, told The Times that issuing migrants with temporary visas was under discussion.
Mr Giro and others from the Democratic Party believe Italy can exploit European Council Directive 2001/55, which states member countries would have to make provision for any displaced people to receive ‘necessary assistance in terms of social welfare and means of subsistence’ and allow family to join them. The temporary permits last for a year but can be extended by a further year.
This is the moment the Italian coastguard tosses a flare into a people smugglers’ boat on the Mediterranean.
Within seconds, the rubber dinghy is engulfed in flames as thick black smoke rises into the sky.
It is one of dozens of boats destroyed in this way on any single day as the coastguard battles to stop people smugglers bringing hundreds of migrants from Africa to Europe.
The Italian coastguard tosses a flare into a people smugglers’ boat on the Mediterranean
The rubber dinghy