Austria warns Italy to prepare for migration surge

Austria wants its southern neighbour Italy to prepare for a surge in migrants, Vienna's interior minister said Thursday, reiterating that she would close a key crossing between the two countries if numbers rise.

Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner, a hard-line conservative, is set to visit her Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano on Friday in Rome.

Austria had previously announced that it was prepared to introduce strict border controls at the Brenner, an Alpine mountain pass along one of Europe's most important transport routes.

"Italy cannot count on the Brenner remaining open in case of uncontrolled migratory flows," Mikl-Leitner told Austrian Press Agency APA.

If frontier checks were implemented, Italy's road haulage association Conftrasporto said lorries would face a one-hour wait at the Brenner pass, generating economic losses worth 172 million euros per year, according to a simulation it has conducted.

The lobby group said 4.7 million trucks passed through the Italo-Austrian border in 2014. Conftrasporto President Paolo Ugge said the "very essence of European transport policy" was at risk.

Mikl-Leitner said she would seek information in Rome about what border control measures Italy plans to take in such an event, and whether reception centres in Southern Italy are working.

Now that the Balkan migration route is closed and the EU-Turkey refugee deal is in place, arrivals by sea to Italy could double to 300,000, compared to last year, the minister said.

The Italian coast guard said Thursday that more than 300 migrants were rescued off the coast of Sicily from a boat that had set sail from Egypt.

The group, which included Syrians, Eritreans and Libyans, had called for help Wednesday using a satellite phone and was located by reconnaissance aircraft, according to a statement.

The migrants were picked up by two coast guard vessels and later transferred to a third boat due to take them to Sicily later Thursday.

In the first three months of 2016, there has been an 85-per-cent year-on-year jump in arrivals at Italy's shores.

Last update: Thu, 07/04/2016 - 18:50
Author: 

More from Europe

Italy president set to steer political crisis after Renzi resignation

Italian President Sergio Mattarella called for "calm" on Monday after Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced his...

British Muslim jailed for attacking teenage couple on street

A British Muslim convert who knocked out a 16-year-old boy for hugging a girl on the street was sentenced to 28...

EC urges Slovenia and Croatia to implement joint energy projects

The European Commission (EC) has recommended that Slovenia and Croatia implement joint energy projects because their...

Report: Isolation fuels Islamic and far-right extremism in Britain

Pockets of Britain where immigrants live in clustered communities are stifling social integration, setting back...

EU pledges EUR 80 mn for Serbia's public administration reform

The European Union and Serbia, in Belgrade on Monday, signed a EUR 80 million agreement for the reform of the...