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Italian Premier Meloni says curbing migrant arrivals from Africa is about investment, not charity
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ROME – Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni conveyed to her European Union counterparts on Thursday that the reduction of migration flows from African countries hinges more on forging robust partnerships and making strategic investments in those nations than on acts of charity.

Addressing reporters at a year-end news conference, Meloni acknowledged that while last month’s agreement on the EU’s Migration and Asylum Pact has partially alleviated the situation for Italy and other asylum countries, it does not offer a definitive solution to the escalating influx of migrants.

“The focus in Africa should not be on charity,” she stated. “Instead, what is required is the establishment of cooperative and substantial relationships based on equality, not exploitation.”

Emphasizing the need “to safeguard the right not to emigrate,” Meloni underscored the importance of investments and a comprehensive strategy in achieving this goal.

The reforms agreed upon by EU leaders last month entail a new set of regulations governing member states’ responses to arrivals in Europe. However, these measures have drawn criticism from humanitarian organizations, which argue that they will diminish the rights of migrants.

Meloni highlighted that Italy’s one-year presidency of the Group of Seven (G7), which commenced in January, will prioritize supporting Africa’s development and addressing the challenges posed by artificial intelligence (AI).

Italy’s strategy in Africa, outlined in the Mattei Plan, aims to expand cooperation beyond the energy sector. While Meloni mentioned the existence of specific projects within the plan, she refrained from providing detailed information, noting that these would be disclosed in the coming weeks.

Acknowledging the shortcomings in tackling illegal migration, a key focus of her far-right coalition government, Meloni conceded that the results thus far have been disappointing.

Despite criticism from aid groups and left-wing opposition parties over the government’s immigration policies, including stricter laws and limitations on sea rescue operations, Meloni’s promises to stem the tide of migration to Italy have largely remained unfulfilled.

In 2023, the route from North Africa across the central Mediterranean to Italy became the busiest migration route in Europe. According to the UNHCR, 260,662 individuals have crossed the Mediterranean Sea from Northern Africa to Europe since the beginning of 2023.

Data from Italy’s Interior Ministry revealed a 50% increase in migrant arrivals in 2023 compared to the previous year, with approximately 155,750 migrants reaching Italian shores, including over 17,000 unaccompanied minors, compared to 103,850 in 2022.

Expressing dissatisfaction with these migration trends despite substantial efforts, Meloni reiterated her commitment to collaborating with African countries to prevent illegal migrant departures.

“My aim is to engage with Africa, halt departures from there, and explore the feasibility of establishing hotspots to determine who has the right to come to Europe,” she affirmed. “Simultaneously, we will focus on legal migration.”

In addition to addressing migration issues, Meloni commented on the Israel-Hamas conflict, advocating for a structural solution to the Palestinian problem rather than a strategy of military destruction.

Regarding Italy’s rejection of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) reform, Meloni deemed the tool “obsolete” and suggested that Italy’s failure to ratify the reform could present an opportunity to enhance its efficiency.

As the only EU member state that has not ratified the treaty, Italy’s stance could impact the implementation of the reform, which requires approval from all national parliaments.

Piers Potter

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