Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Italy eyes minimum income rules for immigrants

ROME, April 28 (Reuters) - Italy's next government should create a minimum income requirement for immigrants, including those from other European Union countries, the man expected to be Italy's new foreign minister said.

Franco Frattini, who holds the EU's top justice and security post and is a longtime ally of prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi, said the income requirement would become necessary for visits of more than three months.

"We need a national law that establishes a minimum income below which foreigners cannot stay in our country for more than 90 days," Frattini said in an interview published on Monday in Il Giornale newspaper, owned by Berlusconi's brother.

"Whoever (has income) above that level stays. Whoever does not have the minimum income will be sent back to their country of origin," he added.

Frattini did not give a minimum income figure but said it should be based on Italy's definition of the poverty line.

A string of well-publicised violent crimes blamed on Romanians and other foreigners have pushed immigration to the top of the political agenda before Berlusconi takes office in early May.

More than 500,000 Romanians are estimated to live in Italy, a number which Rome says jumped dramatically following Romania's entry last year into the European Union. Many are Roma Gypsies living in shantytowns.

Frattini said Rome should ask Romania to send agents to help identify undesirable Romanians.

"They are specialists, they know the dialects of their country. They know how to deal with the Roma, they are very good at identifying people," said Frattini, who has been given unpaid leave from his post at the European Commission pending his expected appointment to Berlusconi's new cabinet.

Berlusconi spoke by telephone with Romanian Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu on Thursday and the two leaders agreed to meet to discuss security issues once the new Italian government takes office, Tariceanu's government said. (Writing by Phil Stewart, editing by Robin Pomeroy and Mary Gabriel)

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