The summit of Mediterranean leaders convened in Rome on Sunday by far-right Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni outlined the contours of a fund to finance investment projects and border controls, with the medium-term goal of better regulating the arrival of immigrants to the old continent.
Giorgia Meloni’s crusade against illegal immigration is not over. On Sunday, July 23, the far-right Italian prime minister convened a summit of Mediterranean leaders in Rome. As a result, the main lines of a fund were outlined to finance investment projects and border controls, with the medium-term objective of better regulating migratory flows to Europe.
Giorgia Meloni was the promoter of this conference, which brings together the leaders of some twenty countries to promote a new form of cooperation between countries of immigration and countries of emigration, in line with the agreement signed by the European Union with Tunisia to stop the arrival of immigrants to the old continent.
“The beginning of a long process”
At the end of half a day of talks, the Italian far-right prime minister announced the creation of a fund that will be nourished by a first donor conference, the date of which has not yet been set, an initiative to which the United Arab Emirates has already contributed 100 million euros.
Although no other concrete measures emerged from the conference, “this is the beginning of a long process”, with the launch of the “Rome process”, whose priorities have been set.
“Fight against illegal immigration, management of legal immigration flows, support for refugees, and above all, most importantly, because if not everything we do will be insufficient, broad cooperation to support the development of Africa, and in particular of the countries from which immigrants come,” he explained.
In his opinion, the “priority lines of financing must refer in the first place to strategic investments and infrastructures, because it is the most sustainable way of achieving cooperation”.
Among the personalities present were the presidents of Tunisia, Kaïs Said, of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed ben Zayed, of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, the UNHCR High Commissioner, Filippo Grandi, and delegates of the main international financial institutions.
Financing of the countries of origin of migration
During the 2022 general election campaign that brought her to power, Giorgia Meloni vowed to “stop the disembarkation” of migrants in Italy. Since then, her government has put obstacles to the passage of humanitarian ships, but without stopping the departures.
According to Rome, some 80,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean and reached Italian shores since the beginning of the year, the majority coming from Tunisia.
Faced with this situation, Giorgia Meloni and the European Commission have intensified their “dialogue” with Tunisia, promising funding if the country commits to combat emigration from its territory.
Last week, Brussels and Rome signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tunisian president that provides for European aid of 105 million euros to prevent the departure of migrant boats and combat smugglers, as well as to increase the number of Tunisians returning illegally to the EU.
A senior European official who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed that the EU wanted to negotiate similar partnerships with Egypt and Morocco.
And according to Giorgia Meloni, it is even more important to support African countries after Moscow suspended the agreement on Ukrainian grain exports.
“Deadly Isolation Policies”
The NGOs, for their part, are up in arms. Sea-Watch regrets that “the EU and its Member States continue to tighten their deadly isolation policies”, while Human Rights Watch considers that “Europe has learned nothing from its complicity in the egregious abuses committed against migrants in Libya”.
This week, HRW also pointed to “serious abuses” by Tunisian security forces against African migrants in recent months, saying the EU must “stop supporting” Tunisia in its fight against illegal immigration.
Following clashes that claimed the life of a Tunisian on July 3, hundreds of African migrants were expelled from Sfax, the country’s second city and the main starting point for illegal emigration in Tunisia. According to the NGOs, the authorities expelled them to inhospitable areas near Libya to the east and Algeria to the west.
“Tunisia is a country in extreme difficulties and leaving it to its fate could have very serious consequences,” warned Giorgia Meloni.
According to the UN, more than 100,000 migrants arrived in Europe in the first half of 2023 by sea from the coasts of North Africa, Turkey and Lebanon. This figure contrasts with just over 189,000 in 2022.
*With AFP; adapted from its original in French