"Today in Khartoum we have achieved a hugely important advance in relations with the African countries for stronger and more effective cooperation in combating the trade in and trafficking of human beings in the Mediterranean, and irregular migration".
The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Lapo Pistelli, has returned to Sudan to take part in the Regional Conference on Human Trafficking and Smuggling in the Horn of Africa. The Conference was organised by the African Union (AU) with support from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Deputy Minister Pistelli was attending in his dual role as Head of the Italian Delegation and Representative of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This was his second visit to Sudan this year, following his mission a few months ago to bring Meriam Ibrahim, the young woman condemned to death for apostasy, to Italy.
The Conference marked the opening of an enhanced dialogue between the countries of Africa and the European Union, at the initiative of the Italian Presidency, which has made migration a priority issue. The "Khartoum Process", as it is now informally called, echoing the Rabat Process, will be launched in Rome on 28 November 2014 during a ministerial conference. The conference will be attended by representatives of the countries of origin and transit on the main route for migrants heading for Europe: the "Horn of Africa Migratory Route".
Pistelli underscored that the Khartoum Process will provide a framework of reference – which so far has been lacking – with a view to developing a structured policy and operational dialogue on how best to manage migration between the European Union and the countries of the Horn of Africa.
In his speech, the Deputy Minister also recalled – to the applause of all participants – Italy’s commitment to search and rescue (SAR) activities, most notably the Mare Nostrum operation. Since it was launched in the wake of the Lampedusa tragedy, Mare Nostrum has saved over 100,000 people and arrested over 500 traffickers. At Italy’s initiative, it will soon be supplemented by "Triton", an operation launched by the European Union’s Frontex agency.
"Let's be brave, let's go together". With these words, addressed as much to the EU member states as to the African countries, Deputy minister Pistelli concluded by reiterating the importance of continuing along the pathway opened up by Italy. A pathway that at last sees the countries of origin, destination and transit of migratory flows working together.
Addressing the countries of origin, he underscored that combating people trafficking and smuggling is just the first step in a more ambitious course that aims to tackle the deeper causes of unregulated migration. In this respect, he underlined the close link between migration and development. "Italy and the European Union view development cooperation as the best route to limit migration flows. Working to provide better living conditions also gives Africans the right to stay in their own land", concluded Pistelli.