On Sunday, an international gathering of nations from the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Africa, initiated by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, proposed measures to curb unauthorized migration and confront challenges forcing people to abandon their home countries for Europe. The new alliance, drawing participation from over 20 countries, vowed to combat people smuggling while enhancing cooperation in areas such as renewable energy to combat climate change and enhance the economic prospects of less privileged nations. The assembly agreed to allocate funding for development projects under what Meloni named the “Rome Process,” expected to span several years. The United Arab Emirates pledged a noteworthy $100 million, following which Meloni expressed hopes for an ensuing donor conference.
Meloni’s Change of Tone
Meloni, softening her previously stringent stance, conceded that Europe and Italy need immigration, provided it follows legal pathways. Her government remains committed to accepting more individuals through authorized routes. However, she underscored the need for more effective measures to deter migrants from risking the perilous Mediterranean crossing via unauthorized means.
The European Union and Tunisia Take a Stand
Last week, the European Union and Tunisia, a significant departure point for migrants, entered a “strategic partnership” agreement. It includes countering human traffickers and strengthening border security. Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission head, hopes this agreement with Tunisia would serve as a model for future partnerships with other regional countries. Tunisian President Kais Saied, one of the attendees, did not agree to Europe-bound migrants settling in his country, calling instead for the establishment of a global financial institution to address the root causes of migration.
The Plight of Italy and the Call of the Pope
Italy finds itself grappling with the influx of unauthorized migrants, primarily in areas like its far southern island of Lampedusa. However, Italy’s aging and declining population necessitates additional workforce to bolster its economy. In response to this, earlier this month, Italy committed to issuing 452,000 new work visas for non-EU nationals from 2023 to 2025, marking a significant increase from the 30,850 visas issued in 2019, pre-COVID. In St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis appealed to European and African governments to aid migrants stranded in North Africa’s desert regions and ensure the Mediterranean ceases to be “a theatre of death” for those attempting to cross.
Meloni emphasized the need for new, more equitable relationships between Europe and migrants’ countries of origin and transit. She suggested four main pillars for future cooperation: fighting criminal organizations trafficking migrants, better-managing migrant flows, supporting refugees, and aiding countries of origin. The Italian Premier criticized the West’s often condescending attitude, which likely impeded viable solutions to the migration issue. She stressed the necessity of better-managed flows, asserting that it would create more room for legal migration.
Future Roadmap and Concerns
The summit, seen by human rights groups as a potential future roadmap, raised concerns about anti-migrant policies that could burden Africa with keeping Africans out of Europe. Amid these deliberations, the plight of migrants stuck in the desert after being pushed back from Tunisia into Libya was highlighted. More than 1,900 migrants have already been reported dead or missing in the Mediterranean this year, with an additional 483 presumed missing in Africa. The total count of dead and missing since 2014 has reached a staggering 27,675, according to the International Organization for Migration.
As Europe continues to grapple with these migration issues, the Rome summit marks a significant step towards establishing balanced relationships with the migrants’ countries of origin and transit. The focus remains on managing migration effectively and legally, with the added need to fight against criminal organizations responsible for human trafficking. The challenges are numerous, but the commitment to confronting them appears unwavering.