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Gentiloni-Steinmeier: “Italy and Germany – a shared commitment in the Horn of Africa”

Civil war, persecution, poor socio-economic conditions and human rights violations all feed migration flows, especially from countries close to Europe. Driven by the hope of finding safety and a better future, migrants undertake a long journey to Europe, during which they face danger, exploitation and, often, death. Europe cannot react merely with emergency measures on its borders. Sustainable solutions to the refugee and migration crises can only be found, in preventive diplomacy terms, through dialogue and cooperation with the countries of origin and transit.

We must also support front-line receiving countries which, located as they are in the immediate vicinity of the major hotbeds of crisis, are exposed to serious pressures. This was the approach followed by the Berlin Conference on Syrian refugees in October, during which we acknowledged our responsibility towards both the Syrians fleeing the civil war in their country and the countries receiving them.

Along with the Middle East, Africa is one of the main departure points for migrants seeking to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean. A growing number of Somalis, Ethiopians and Sudanese are embarking on this perilous Odyssey. Most of the victims of the tragic shipwreck of 3 October 2013 off the coast of Lampedusa were from Eritrea. On a humanitarian level, with Operation Mare Nostrum Italy provided a prompt and effective response that enabled about 100,000 migrants in distress to be saved.

But the Mediterranean crossing is just the last stage in the long journey from the Horn of Africa to Europe. From the moment of their departure, migrants are constantly exposed to the danger of falling victim to grave violations of their human rights, or to humanitarian emergencies. An estimated 25-30,000 Eritrean, Somali and Ethiopian citizens have been kidnapped and tortured on the East Africa migration route since 2009 with the aim of demanding high ransoms from their families.

Italy and Germany have therefore decided to strengthen their joint commitment in the Horn of Africa in the framework of the Khartoum Process. A Process established at Italy’s initiative and which is the focus of the international conference for which we have met here today in Rome. The Process is a political one, through which the countries of Europe and the Horn of Africa intend to combat, together and in keeping with the principles of the Rabat Conference that took place yesterday (27 November 2014), again in Rome, the trafficking and smuggling of human beings.

As Foreign Ministers of Italy and Germany, we wish to give concrete proof in the Horn of Africa of the added value that foreign policy can provide in combating the structural causes of migration flows and in supporting the transit countries. We want to, and must, do more that merely adopt policy initiatives or humanitarian measures that can merely provide short-term answers. In the long term, the only solution is a new partnership with the countries of origin and transit, especially those in the Horn of Africa itself and the Mediterranean transit countries (Libya first and foremost, but also Egypt and Tunisia).

As an initial measure, we will intensify our diplomatic efforts in this region in support of political stability. Efforts that include mediation in conflict resolution, for example in Sudan or Somalia; support for the United Nations and European Union peace missions; and initiatives against the smuggling of small arms and in support of disarmament.

We will then take action to strengthen the protection of refugees’ and migrants’ rights and local capacity to combat human trafficking. This sphere of action includes training programmes for border agents to improve their ability to identify traffickers and their victims, and to react to the related crimes. We can also improve protection measures in and around the refugee camps, and provide more and better social-psychological support and health care for victims.

Lastly, we will implement programmes to improve the social, economic and judicial conditions of refugees and migrants in transit countries on the migration routes. We will do so in the conviction that if the people concerned could even just glimpse, in their own countries, the possibility of an acceptable life, they would have less of an incentive to leave. In concrete terms, we need to provide more and better access to public services such as education and health care in the host countries; advise the authorities there on implementing the legislation on asylum and foreign nationals; make a definitive contribution to the stabilisation of state institutions; and facilitate the dialogue on governance.

Italy and Germany view the Rome Conference (of 28 November 2014) as a first important step in a common commitment towards the countries of the Horn of Africa. We will cooperate closely in the framework of the Khartoum Process, with the other participant countries, the European Union and the African Union. Only when migration issues have become an integral part of European foreign policy will we be able to make an effective contribution to managing migration crises.