Rome: Muammar Gaddafi planned to swamp the
tiny Italian island of Lampedusa with African migrants as
revenge for Rome`s part in the coalition against his regime,
Italy`s foreign minister said on Friday.
"Italy has proof of orders given by Colonel Gaddafi to
turn Lampedusa into hell," Foreign Minister Franco Frattini
said in an interview with the Catholic newspaper, Avvenire.
"There is proof Gaddafi gave the order to send thousands
of desperate people on boats, in order to throw the island
into chaos," he said.
Italy has always suspected the Libyan leader of using
illegal immigration as as weapon to put pressure on Prime
Minister Silvio Berlusconi`s government.
Thousands of refugees, for the most part from Sub-Saharan
Africa, have arrived from Libya on Lampedusa over the past few
The arrivals follow those of tens of thousands of
Tunisians who fled following that country`s uprising, causing
severe overcrowding and dire sanitary conditions and leaving
Italy open to heavy criticism from the European Union and aid
According to the Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, over
48,000 immigrants and refugees from Tunisia and Libya had
arrived on Lampedusa since the start of the year.
The Libyan ambassador in Italy, Hafez Gaddour, told Rai
radio that Gaddafi controlled illegal immigration "in person,
saying that he wanted to turn Lampedusa black with Africans,"
to punish Italy for its role in NATO operations.