Rome: Italy has appealed to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) for greater help in tackling illegal immigration from North Africa, especially Libya, with its new government saying the country was "under attack" from the south.
European Union (EU) rules mean migrants must apply for asylum in the European country where they first arrive, putting pressure on Italy and Greece, the entry points for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the West Asia, Africa and Asia since 2015.
"We cannot not have closer cooperation between NATO and the EU in the Mediterranean and elsewhere," Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said after meeting NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.
Italy's new government formed by the anti-establishment M5S and anti-immigration league parties considers Mediterranean as the EU's "southern flank" and has sounded the alarm on immigration saying terrorists could sneak into Europe and wreak havoc.
On Sunday, Italian foreign minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi had underscored "the importance of Italy for the NATO Brussels summit to reaffirm the approach of a 360 degree security policy without neglecting the southern flank from where serious challenges emerge for the alliance, starting with terrorism."
"NATO's engagement in the south constitutes an important component of its strategy shift," he said, after meeting with Stoltenberg.
The first to lead the charge was interior minister and league chief Matteo Salvini who has continued with his anti-migrant rhetoric since taking charge. "We are under attack and we are asking NATO for a defensive alliance to protect us," he said. "Italy is under attack from the south and not from the east."
The summer of 2016 saw a surge in mass drownings in the Mediterranean as Europe's worst migration crisis since World War II peaked with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the West Asia and elsewhere.
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Updated Date: Jun 11, 2018 18:30:45 IST