Giorgia Meloni’s crusade against illegal immigration is not over yet. Italy’s far-right prime minister called a summit of heads of state and government from across the Mediterranean for Sunday, July 23 in Rome. As a result, the main features of a fund for financing investment projects and border controls were outlined, with the medium-term goal of better regulating the migration flows arriving in Europe.
As part of this conference, attended by the heads of state and government of around twenty countries, Giorgia Meloni wants to promote a new type of cooperation between immigration and emigration countries, along the lines of the agreement signed by the European Union with Tunisia to limit the arrival of migrants on the old continent.
Also readThe pact between the EU and Tunisia, a new “model” in the face of the migration crisis?
“The Beginning of a Long Work”
After half a day of talks, Italy’s far-right prime minister announced the creation of a fund to be boosted by a first donors’ conference, the date of which has not yet been set, an initiative to which the UAE has already contributed €100 million.
If no further concrete action emerged from the conference, “it is the beginning of a long process”, with the initiation of the “Rome process” for which it has set the priorities.
“Fighting illegal immigration, managing legal immigration flows, supporting refugees and, above all, the most important thing, otherwise everything we will do will not be enough, comprehensive cooperation in support of the development of Africa and especially the countries of origin,” she explained.
In her opinion, “priority lines of financing must concern above all strategic investments and infrastructure, because this is the most sustainable way of working together”.
Among the personalities present were the Presidents of Tunisia Kaïs Saïed, the President of the United Arab Emirates Mohammed ben Zayed, Mauritania’s 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, as well as delegates from the main international financial institutions.
Financing of emigration countries
During the 2022 legislative campaign that brought her to power, Giorgia Meloni had promised to stop “the landings” of migrants in Italy. His administration has since stuck sticks in the propellers of humanitarian ships, but without drying up departures.
Around 80,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean Sea since the beginning of the year, according to Rome, arriving on the coasts of the peninsula, mainly from the Tunisian coast.
In light of this observation, Giorgia Meloni and the European Commission have intensified their “dialogue” with Tunisia, promising financial resources if the country commits to combating emigration from its territory.
Brussels and Rome signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tunisian president last week, which notably envisages €105 million in European aid to prevent refugee boats from sailing and to crack down on smugglers, as well as more returns of Tunisians in an irregular situation in the EU.
A senior EU official, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed that the EU is interested in negotiating similar partnerships with Egypt and Morocco.
And after Moscow suspended the agreement on Ukrainian grain exports, it is all the more important to support African countries, according to Giorgia Meloni.
“Deadly Isolation Policy”
The NGOs, on the other hand, are resisting. Sea-Watch regrets that “the EU and its member states continue to intensify their deadly isolation policies,” while Human Rights Watch believes that “Europe has learned nothing from its complicity in the atrocious abuses against migrants in Libya.”
HRW also this week pointed to “serious abuses” by Tunisian security forces against African migrants in recent months and said the EU should “stop supporting this country in its fight against irregular immigration”.
After clashes that left a Tunisian man dead on July 3, hundreds of African migrants have been forced out of Sfax, the country’s second largest city and Tunisia’s main exit point 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 United Nations, more than 100,000 migrants arrived in Europe by sea from the coasts of North Africa, Turkey and Lebanon in the first six months of 2023. In 2022 it was just over 189,000.