Immigration Tests Unity Of European Union In recent months, the European Union has been shaken by internal divisions over management of the single currency, the euro, and over NATO intervention in Libya. Now, even sharper differences have emerged over immigration.

Immigration Tests Unity Of European Union

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NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports on a showdown at the French-Italian border.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: In recent weeks, France has sent some 2,000 Tunisians back to Italy. It rejects Rome's decision to issue six-month permits to the 25,000 Tunisians who have landed on its shores since January.


POGGIOLI: The mood in Menton, like the rest of France, is not welcoming for new arrivals. The beachfront promenade extends for miles, ideal for jogging and leisurely walks. This elderly stroller has made the Riviera her retirement home.

LOUISE KELLY: There are so many Tunisians here, there so many other people, you know, and it's becoming more and more aggressive. Myself - I don't go out at night now. I'm afraid. I don't think it is correct, what the Italian government is doing.

POGGIOLI: But across the border in Ventimiglia, Tunisian migrants are questioning the notion of a borderless Europe. Lizar Taher is a Tunisian student.

LOUISE KELLY: (Through translator) If Italy is a member of the EU, why does France say no, why does Germany say no?

POGGIOLI: But France says all migrants must have a valid passport and hold sufficient sums of cash. Jamel Hakimi says that's an impossible demand.

LOUISE KELLY: (Through translator) If you have a place to sleep, you need 30 euros a day - that's 2,700 euros for three months. And for those with no place to sleep, it's 5,600 euros for three months. They're blocking us all.

POGGIOLI: Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini accused the EU of shirking its collective responsibilities.

LOUISE KELLY: Not France, not Italy, not Germany - Europe - and Europe is doing nothing about it. So Europe is divided. European integration failed on immigration.

POGGIOLI: Premier Silvio Berlusconi went further, wondering whether there was any sense in remaining within the European Union - an unprecedented remark in the EU's 50-year history, which some analysts say helps foment fears and bolster the government on the extreme right.

LOUISE KELLY: (Speaking Italian)

POGGIOLI: Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

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