Libyan leader Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi has ended his visit to Italy by calling on the European Union to pay his country €5 billion (£4.13bn) a year to ensure its co-operation in preventing illegal immigration from Africa, which "threatens to turn Europe black".
• Libyan leader Gaddafi has been accused of blackmailing the European Union with his demand for cash to help stem the flow of illegal African immigrants into the continent. Picture: Getty
Italy has drawn criticism for a deal it made with Tripoli to hand over to Libya mostly African migrants it intercepts at sea, without screening them first.
Far fewer now reach Italy from Libya. European Commission figures show that in 2009 the number of people caught trying to enter Italy illegally fell to 7,300, from 32,052 in 2008.
In his farewell speech yesterday Gaddafi, 67, told his audience in Rome: "Italy needs to convince her European allies to accept this Libyan proposal - €5bn to Libya to stop illegal immigration.
"Europe runs the risk of turning black from illegal immigration, it could turn into Africa. We need support from the European Union to stop this army trying to get across from Libya, which is their entry point.
"There is a dangerous level of immigration from Africa into Europe and we don't know what will happen. What will be the reaction of the white Christian Europeans to this mass of hungry uneducated Africans?
"We don't know if Europe will remain an advanced and cohesive continent or if it will be destroyed by this barbarian invasion.
We have to imagine that this could happen, but before it does we need to work together."
Gaddafi has long seen himself as a champion of African interests on the international stage and has hosted many summits with African leaders.
Critics immediately hit out at Gaddafi, pointing out that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees had been forced to close its Libyan office this year, without explanation from Tripoli.
Italian opposition MPs called on prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to distance himself from Gaddafi and his attempts to secure money from the EU.
Silvana Mura, of the anti-sleaze party Italy of Values, said: "We need to know immediately if the Italian government intends to support this proposal, which is in essence an unacceptable blackmail.
"We have already had to support the clown antics of the Libyan leader on his visit to Italy, with the approval of the government and now he is asking for a payoff from Europe."In 2008, Italy and Libya agreed a deal that allows the Italian navy to intercept illegal immigrants and return them to Libya, triggering sharp criticism from the UN refugee agency and human rights groups.
Thousands of people each year attempt to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy to reach Europe and many die en route, while those who are caught are taken back to camps in Libya where conditions are appalling.
Luigi de Magistris an MEP with Italy of Values said: "The dictator Gadaffi wants €5bn to stop immigration, but where will the money go?
"Will it go towards those deported and put into concentration camps in Libya?"
During his two-day stay, Gadhafi gave two lectures on Islam to young Italian women recruited by a modelling agency and paid to attend. His call for them to convert sparked outrage from Italian politicians.