Italy: Rome announces $103bln support plan proposal for North Africa to tackle migration issue

Rome: Italy will propose a $103 billion support plan at the European level for countries of North Africa to solve the problem of illegal migration during the EU foreign ministers’ meeting, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told Italian newspaper il Messaggero.

Italy believes the EU needs to set up “real and effective coordination” to manage migration flows, as well as rules for nongovernmental organizations that deal with migrant rescue and transport in the Mediterranean Sea, the newspaper said.

Tajani told the newspaper the plan to support the countries of northern Africa should be built based on the so-called Turkish model, which is used to combat the flow of illegal migrants from the middle East. The funds will be allocated toward the development of these countries and combating climate change, the report said.

According to il Messaggero, the minister also pointed out the importance of refugee camps, especially in Tunisia and Libya, built with the support of humanitarian organizations and European bodies. Migrants can then be redistributed from them across EU countries, he said.

The minister further suggested that NGO ships should either send the rescued migrants to the countries whose flags they are flying or to the countries the NGOs themselves are registered in, the report said.

Last week, Italy refused to allow the docking of the Ocean Viking, French NGO SOS Mediterranee’s ship, which carried 234 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea. Many refugees had reportedly been at sea for over two weeks. The ship finally docked in the French port of Toulon.

France criticized Rome’s refusal as “selfish” and “unacceptable.” French government spokesman Olivier Veran noted that Italy must fulfill its European obligations to receive migrants, since the ship was in Italian territorial waters. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said that Italy would face consequences if it continued to refuse to accept migrants rescued at sea.

The Italian authorities believe that while women, children and sick people have the right to help and accommodation in the ports closest to the rescue site, the authorities of the countries under whose flags NGO vessels move should take care of the rescued migrants, and the issue of refugee accommodation should be resolved in a pan-European format based on solidarity.