By Hadi Fornji.
Tunis, 6 July 2017:
A conference in Rome on trying to control migration from what are being called “countries of transit” – which mainly means Libya – was told by Italian foreign minister Angelino Alfano that Italy would provide financial support to the EU to support Libya’s ability to control its southern borders; to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to help assisted voluntary repatriations to Libya; and to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to support the fight against people trafficking in Libya and elsewhere generally.
Alfano also reconfirmed a €10-million grant to the UNHCR to provide humanitarian assistance, including food, to migrants transiting though Libya.
The conference, the aim of which was to expand existing partnerships with African migration transit countries and agree new approaches to managing the flow, was attended by the Presidency Council’s foreign minister Mohamed Siala, as well as by the Director General of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees and the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for International Migrations.
It came just the day after the spokesman for the Libyan navy, Ayoub Qassem, said that there has been a 20-percent increase this year in the number of migrants setting out from Libya to cross the Mediterranean compared to last year.
Italy is being swamped with refugees: it has taken 85,000 of the 100,000 who have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year and, with the calm summer weather, the number of those crossing daily from Libya is due to increase significantly. Faced with the crisis, Italy has even threatened to close its ports to vessels carrying rescued migrants. It is also proposing, in conjunction with the EU, the creation of a rescue coordination centre in Libya.