Migration crisis: In Rome, the Mediterranean countries announce the creation of a common fund

The summit of leaders from around the Mediterranean, gathered 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 migrants to the old continent.

Giorgia Meloni’s crusade against illegal immigration is not over. The far-right Italian prime minister called a summit of leaders from around the Mediterranean in Rome on Sunday 23 July. As a result, the outlines of a fund to finance investment projects and border controls have been outlined with the medium-term goal of better regulating migration flows arriving in Europe.

At the beginning of this conference, which brings together the leaders of about twenty countries, Giorgia Meloni intends to promote a new way of cooperation between immigration and emigration countries, following the model of the agreement that the EU has signed with Tunisia to slow down the arrival of migrants to the old continent.

“The beginning of a long work”

After half a day of talks, the far-right Italian Prime Minister announced the creation of a fund, which will be complemented by a first donor conference, the date of which has not been set, an initiative to which the United Arab Emirates has already contributed one hundred million euros.

If no other concrete actions have come from the conference, “it is the beginning of a long process”, with the launch of the “Rome Process”, for which it has set the priorities.

“Fight against illegal immigration, management of legal immigration flows, support for refugees and above all the most important, otherwise everything we will do will be insufficient, broad cooperation to support the development of Africa, and especially of the countries of origin” of migrants, she detailed.

According to her, the “priority funding lines must first and foremost concern strategic investments and infrastructures, because this is the most sustainable way to cooperate”.

Among the personalities present are the presidents of Tunisia Kaïs Saïed, 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 High Commissioner of the UNHCR, Filippo Grandi, and delegates from the major international financial institution.

Financing of countries of emigration

During the 2022 legislative campaign that brought her to power, Giorgia Meloni had promised to “stop the landing” of migrants in Italy. His government has since put sticks in the propellers of humanitarian ships without, however, drying up departures.

According to Rome, around 80,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean and arrived on the shores of the peninsula since the beginning of the year, mainly from the Tunisian coast.

Faced with this observation, Giorgia Meloni and the European Commission have intensified their “dialogue” with Tunisia, promising funding if the country commits to fighting emigration from its territory.

Brussels and Rome last week signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tunisian president, which in particular provides European assistance of 105 million euros aimed at preventing the departure of migrant boats and fighting smugglers, as well as more returns of Tunisians in an irregular situation in the EU.

A senior EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the EU is keen to negotiate similar partnerships with Egypt and Morocco.

And according to Giorgia Meloni, it is all the more important to support African countries after Moscow’s suspension of the agreement on Ukrainian grain exports.

“Deadly Isolation Policies”

The NGOs, on the other hand, stand up. Sea-Watch regrets that “the EU and its member states continue to harden their deadly isolation policies”, while Human Rights Watch believes that “Europe has learned nothing from its complicity in the cruel abuses committed against migrants in Libya”.

HRW also this week pointed to “serious abuses” in recent months by Tunisian security forces against African migrants and said the EU should “stop supporting” that country in the fight against irregular immigration.

After clashes that claimed the life of a Tunisian on July 3, hundreds of African migrants were driven out of Sfax, the country’s second largest city and Tunisia’s main point of departure for illegal emigration. According to NGOs, they were taken by the authorities 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 six months of 2023 by sea, from the coasts of North Africa, Turkey and Lebanon. They were just over 189,000 in 2022.


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