European citizenship for sale - only the wealthy need apply

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While the European Union is placing increased resources into blocking clandestine immigration to the continent, its member states, notably those of the south, worst-hit by the financial crisis, are mounting schemes to sell residency rights and even citizenship to wealthy non-EU foreigners in an attempt to attract millions of euros into state coffers. To qualify for most of the schemes it suffices to buy into luxury property, a deal which is notably attracting Russian, Chinese and Middle East investors. The European Commission, meanwhile, says it has no say in the cynical and apparently legal business of selling European citizenship. Ludovic Lamant reports.

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On October 3rd, a boat carrying African clandestine migrants seeking to enter Europe from Libya sank off the coast of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, leaving more than 360 of its passengers dead. One week later, another 37 people drowned when their boat, carrying some 200 migrants, capsized between Lampedusa and nearby Malta.