November 19, 2017

The engagement of Italian Diplomacy in facing the migration challenges

By H.E. Andrea Perugini, Ambassador of Italy to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The current migration phenomenon surely is one of the major challenges which Italy and the International Community are facing since the end of the Second World War. The continuous massive inflow of refugees Italy was forced to cope with over the last few years has severely put to the test the Italian capacity to accommodate displaced persons, notwithstanding the ongoing investments in relevant structures and the enormous economic and social costs that Italy sustained.

Whereas in 2013, a total of 22.118 persons were hosted in temporary structures, this figure has risen at present to 174.356 persons. From 2014 onwards, a special structure with a new accommodation system, in particular for minors, has been set up which consists of 19 operative structures, including 950 sites spread out in 10 different Italian Regions.

The cost of running these emergency migration inflows as a whole, including rescue-operations at sea, assistance and first need provision, shelter and outplacement, placed a heavy burden on the Italian Budget, equal to 0,2% of its 2016 GDP, the equivalent of 3,3 billion euro. Estimates for 2017, made by the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance, have risen to 3,8 billion euro. However, in case the influx of asylum-seekers were to further increase, this figure could even rise to 4,2 billion euro.

Indeed, the problem of irregular migration affects not only Italy or Greece, nor is it merely Europe’s problem: Italian diplomacy is at the forefront since many years in promoting initiatives and awareness in order to show that what we are facing is actually a global phenomenon. That is why we are engaged in a number of global initiatives in addition to regional ones. The high level conferences held last year in New York on September 19th and 20th were a step forward towards a more coordinated management of migration. The Declaration adopted at these conferences, organized by the Secretary General of the United Nations, endorses the principle of “Shared Responsibility” which Italy has been supporting as of the outset, in the awareness that over the coming years migration will remain pivotal in light of the wide and growing demographic disparities between Europe and Africa. It is in this respect encouraging that following the New York Declaration negotiations will lead to the adoption of the so called Global Compact on refugees and Global on Migration before the end of the year 2018.

Following the New York Declaration, Italy is deeply engaged in negotiations which will lead to the adoption of these two Global Compacts. We argue that we should set aside the traditional and outdated “emergency-approach” to human mobility, and replace it with an overarching long term strategy, aiming at transforming irregular mass migration flows into regular migration channels in a predictable and manageable manner.

Ambassador Perugini.

In these Global Compact negotiations, Italy is granting priority to two fundamental principles: a) partnership between countries of origin, countries of transit and those of final destination and, b) shared responsibility in the management of flows as well as in the protection of migrants and refugees, especially the most vulnerable ones.

The objectives which the Italian diplomacy is pursuing through such Global Compacts are: 1) promoting public and private investments in the countries of origin and in the countries of transit, with the aim of contributing to improve the management of flows and to counter the fundamental causes of immigration; 2) protecting migrants and the most vulnerable refugees (women, minors, in particular those without parents, or those separated from their parents); 3) valuing the positive aspects of migration, to be shared between countries of origin, countries of transition and those of final destination. We are determined to transform these Global Compact principles into concrete actions.

It is becoming increasingly clear that there is an urgent need to step up cooperation with countries of transit. Not only in order to counter human trafficking and criminal networks interfering with migration movements, but also to confront the deeper-lying causes of the migration phenomenon itself.

To underline even more the central role countries of transit play in the management of migration flows, Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Angelino Alfano chaired on July 6th a first International Ministerial Conference entitled “A shared responsibility for a common goal: solidarity and security”. This event was an occasion for dialogue and comparison between the major African and European transit and destination countries of migration. The Director General of the International Organization for Migrations and the Deputy UN High Commissioner for Refugees also contributed. The objective of the meeting was to focus on good neighborhood and on strengthening support, from Italy as well as from Europe, to countries most affected by the current migration crisis along the routes which lead, from Sub Saharan Africa and through the Mediterranean Sea, to Europe.

The final aim of this event was to put around the same table the EU countries which have contributed the most to putting into effect the Migration Compact (Germany, France, The Netherlands and Spain) together with the African countries of transit which have shown major willingness to collaborate on immigration (Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Niger, Sudan). An integrated approach was pursued which aims to support local communities, to fight against human trafficking, in strengthening border controls, protect human rights, assist migrants and refugees providing them with increased opportunities for voluntary repatriation. Italian diplomacy is fully engaged in persuading the International Community

Particularly significant were the announcements of contributions from several European countries, a testimony of concrete results obtained at this conference. We are pleased that the Netherlands is taking a leadership role in this regards consistently with the spirit of H. M. The King Willem Alexander’s visit to Palermo during his State Visit to Italy in June 2017. In particular, The Netherlands has provided 10 million euro to the International Migrations Organization and 6 million to UNHCR out of a total commitment of 50 million euros, including funds announced previously. This ranks The Netherlands in third position, as far as contributor countries are concerned.

Starting from this conference, a strengthened Partnership between European countries and African countries of transit has been put into place, so that this dialogue format may have continuity beyond the Declaration.

The next edition of the Ministerial Conference on shared responsibility in managing migration flows will take place in Rome, at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in February 2018 in order to provide continuity to this process and to such an innovative form of dialogue All countries which have contributed to the July meeting are being invited including countries of origin and transit. It would be highly desirable that a wide participation will further strengthen the commonly shared goal of finding structural and sustainable solutions to this global challenge.

 

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