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Address by the Hon. Minister at the Plenary Session of the Ministerial Conference “A SHARED RESPONSABILITY FOR A COMMON GOAL: SOLIDARITY AND SECURITY”

Rome, 6 July 2017

(The authentic text is only the one actually delivered)


Dear Colleagues,

Once again allow me extend to you my warmest welcome to Rome and express my thanks for having accepted my invitation.

Together, we are facing an epochal phenomenon: the migration crisis in the Mediterranean. It is undoubtedly the most pressing issue for our generation and to which – precisely our generation – must still come up with a clear and effective answer.  

I come from Agrigento, in Sicily. My constituency includes the Island of Lampedusa, which has become the symbol of a human tragedy that I have witnessed with my own eyes. 

I am proud that my Country never turned to look the other way and never stopped stretching out a hand to those asking to be rescued. By saving lives, Italy has saved the honour and the face of Europe. 

We have taken an approach based on solidarity and security, which has been criticised and turned to their advantage by populists, but which has made Italy a welcoming and safe Country in a European and global setting that is blind to zero-risks.   

These past few days we have been resolutely continuing to put the issue on the table in Brussels, calling for tangible acts of solidarity.

In the meanwhile, we have decided to launch a new Strategy in favour of Transit Countries in a new format, thus filling the vacuum in the action of the international community. 

This is an idea that arose in the course of a meeting, a few months ago, with the Foreign Minister of Niger, my colleague Ibrahim Yacouba, to jointly activate a more effective bilateral cooperation, for which I would like to sincerely thank him again. 

It is in everybody’s interest to create a new partnership actively involving the Countries of transit, which are now our best allies in order to overcome the devastating crisis caused by migration flows. 

There is a political reason: dictated by the rise in populisms, which are growing, sowing fear among our communities on the migration crisis. It is not only conventional parties that are under fire but also the solidity of our democratic institutions and the honesty of our political debate. We have the fundamental duty to reassure our citizens.

There is also a security reason: it is in our interest to eliminate the migrant trafficking business model because it is now proven that much of the revenue then goes to finance terrorism.

And there is a humanitarian reason: there are still many, too many, migrants who die during their desperate crossing of the desert or of the Mediterranean. These deaths are unacceptable.  

Numbers give us a more than graphic description of the dramatic dimension of the phenomenon: in the last three years, Italy has received more than 580,000 migrants and since the beginning of the year, arrivals have increased 20% from the previous years, during which we received a total of 500,000 persons.

I have wanted to support this new format and the development of a Strategy for the Countries of Transit in order to give priority to tangible and immediate actions.

In order to spur this spirit of concreteness, I would like to announce three new commitments made by Italy.

The first is a 10-million-euro contribution to the EU Trust Fund for Africa, with a view to reinforcing the southern borders of Libya. Libya is the main migration transit route. It is crucial to help it manage its borders with Niger, Chad and Sudan.

Strengthening the southern borders of Libya reinforces the Country’s stabilisation process, as the criminal organisations that exploit migrant trafficking are those that are most interested in maintaining a situation of fragility.

Our second commitment is an 18-million-euro contribution to the IOM in favour of Libya-assisted voluntary migrant repatriations to their Countries of Origin, in full respect of their rights and dignity.

The third commitment is a 3-million-euro contribution to UNODC to continue fighting the scourge of migrant traffickers, the “agents of journeys of death”.

These new bilateral commitments are financed through an ad hoc fund, the 200-million-euro Africa Fund that I launched this year.

I would also like to recall the commitment made a few weeks ago to allocate 10 million euros to the UNHCR for new initiatives providing protection and humanitarian assistance to refugees and migrants in Libya. To these, I should also add 2.5 million euros for a package of multilateral emergency initiatives run by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP). 

In addition to Libya, we must do more for other Countries of Transit, helping them to better control their borders and to manage the return of migration flows to their Countries of Origin.

Let’s take the example of Niger: in May last year, 71,000 migrants crossed the desert border between Niger and Libya; in April of this year, the number is down to 5,000 (IOM figures). 

Niger remains an absolute priority Country which deserves our utmost attention but, at the same time, we must help other Countries of transit.

To act bilaterally is not sufficient. The migration crisis along the Central Mediterranean route is a global problem and, as such, requires multilateral solutions.

It is mainly in the interest of the Countries of transit to contribute to this new Strategy because they are the first to suffer the devastating effects of migration flows.

But I hope that the EU Member Countries will become more aware of this reality and show more solidarity, increasing the resources allocated to the Countries of transit both at bilateral level and through the Trust Fund for Africa.     

The new Strategy also needs the partnership of the major international organisations with expertise in the sector, which I thank for being here with us today.

In addition to enforcing border controls and fighting traffickers, international organisations can help us on two more fronts:

1)  Providing assistance and protection to refugees and migrants in the Countries of transit, which means providing them with the necessary reliable information on the risks involved, developing assisted voluntary repatriation and relocation programmes; and building an ever-stronger international protection system in the Countries of transit.  

This effort will also help us to evaluate the possibility of opening legal and safe channels through which to resettle refugees from the Countries of transit to Europe.

2)  Making a greater economic investment in the local communities most affected by the trafficking business model. We need to offer valid economic answers to the populations who bear the biggest weight in giving hospitality to refugees and migrants.

In line with this reasoning, the day after tomorrow I will open the first Italy-Libya Economic Forum in Agrigento, in Sicily, to facilitate new economic investments in infrastructure and in the energy sector.

Dear Colleagues,

The political Declaration that we will approve today draws inspiration from the principles of responsibility and solidarity that we need in order to manage the crisis.

In order to translate words into actions, we propose to launch a Pilot Project to put our decisions into practice. 

And to assure continuity to this format, I would like us to meet at least once every six months, also to monitor the progress made together. To this end, I would like you to keep the date on your diaries for a new meeting in January 2018.

Allow me to conclude with the hope that when we meet again in six months’ time in Rome, we might have developed a package of projects, in the implementation phase and with measurable results, on border controls and fighting traffickers, on providing protection and assistance to migrants, on repatriations and relocations, and on local economic development aid.  

Thank you.

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