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Alfano: «Tripoli must pay its debts; NGO’s shed light on their accounting» (Il Messaggero)

“Regulating migration flows and stabilising Libya” was the aim of yesterday’s mission to Tripoli by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Angelino Alfano, who then returned to Italy to fly to Argentina. “The UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, will be able to register them directly in the camps,” said the minister referring to the dimension of flows at departure and to the respect of the rights of migrants. The ships of NGOs crossing in front of the Libyan coasts “must save human lives according to maritime law but also in compliance with the provisions of international law”. In Libya “there is no agreement between East and West”, between General Haftar and Premier Al-Sarraj, but the “door is open and dialogue has begun”. In the meantime, the Libyan Government must get ready to “pay back to Italian companies 200 million euros of arrears”.   

Minister Alfano, will Italy contribute to the security of elections, should they be called, in March 2018 in Libya?

“The real pacification of Libya can only be enforced by Libyans. Elections are the conclusion of a negotiation process. First, we have to close the agreement that will lead to calling them. We reason according to the logic of providing the aid requested, because the borderline between heartfelt aid and interfering in the affairs of another State is always flimsy. We are ready to facilitate any action conducive to stability in Libya, because this would translate into security, fighting the trafficking of human beings and stopping migration flows.”  

Is the agreement on migrants with Italy and the EU at risk?

“We are working to reinforce it, making it capable to fight traffickers throughout the territory of Libya. The agreement on migration flows applies to the phase before the departure of boats. We must work effectively on all fronts.”

Italy has pledged 10 million euros to the UNHCR, which is about to return to Libya after it was kicked out in 2010. What role will the UN play?

“A strategic role that is essential in conciliating the scope of security with that of human rights. Its presence can certainly represent a key element in a general strategy. I told the UN High Commissioner who, by the way, is Italy’s Filippo Grandi, that we will support the Plan with 10 million euros, in order to give a signal of strong encouragement. The Plan will in part concern dislocated people in Libya and in part the refugees.”

Will migrants be registered before their departure?

“This is the ambition that we harbour and this is the reason for our supporting the Plan. Otherwise, it would be impossible to imagine a project that envisions Libya as the place in which to enforce a number of procedures to avoid that they be performed in Europe and in Italy. Security and rights are the key elements.”

The president of the EU Commission, Juncker, has praised Italy.

“President Juncker said an important thing that we were already aware of and that we have always claimed, namely that Italy has saved the honour of Europe on the issue of migrants. However, now it is time for Europe, albeit with a great delay, to respect the commitments made on relocations.”

Are the NGOs that operate with their ships in the Mediterranean all the same or do some need investigating?

“Nobody can disavow the essential role played by NGOs in the world and in Italy. Another thing altogether is what was stated by the Public Prosecutor of Catania Zuccaro, who certainly made no generalisation but only affirmed the need to investigate in order to find answers to certain questions, both legal and of common sense, so much so that they raise questions among large segments of public opinion.”

What investigations?

“This activity does not fall within my scope of competence but of that of the judiciary on the one hand and, from the political perspective, of the Senate Defence Committee, through an information-gathering investigation. We are happy when human lives are saved; we are world champions of solidarity and human rights. However, everybody must play according to the rules, both public and private institutions, because they apply to all without exceptions and everybody must respect the provisions of international law, maritime law, on the transparency of financial flows and financiers and obviously on not conspiring with human traffickers.”

The case of the NGOs has created divisions within the Government, for example between you and Justice Minister Orlando. Have you been able to settle these differences?

“Everything seems to go in the direction that I indicated a week ago: supporting the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Catania, verifying the truth and no generalisations on the NGOs. Slowly but surely, they have all managed to understand.”

Tunisia and Malta seem hesitant to welcome shipwrecked persons.  

“Tunisia’s young democracy, which is still going through the transition process, is doing well on immigration, to the extent that the problem today only concerns Libya. Malta has an objective problem with its size, but the funerals after the 2015 massacre in the Mediterranean were held precisely in Malta.”

What is the security situation in Libya?

“We couldn’t have expected a better welcome and more gratitude. But the situation is fragile and there is still a lot of work to do.”

When will Italians be able to go back to work in Libya?

“We intend to immediately create an opportunity to meet in Sicily: a bilateral meeting between Italians wanting to invest in Libya and the Libyan government. During this mission, I asked that the almost 200 million euros in arrears that Libya owes to many Italian companies be paid back.”

Is terrorism defeated?

“Libyans paid with their blood the victories over Daesh (ISIS) on their own territory, as a national effort against terrorism. The blood shed was also by the militias in Misrata. Everybody contributed.”

Is it reasonable to think that militias will dissolve?

“What is to be hoped is an army under a sole leadership and this can only fall within the scope of an agreement between East and West Libya for which Italy played a key role in Rome, putting in contact the president of the Tobruk Council of Deputies and the president of the Presidential Council of Tripoli, thus accelerating other negotiating processes. But this is only the beginning.” 


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