Italy aims to deter irregular migration

Italy is pushing ahead with measures aimed at stemming the flow of irregular migrants to the country. With 180,000 illegal migrants arriving to the country in 2016, Italy’s new government, led by Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, is taking action to deter illegal migration.

Last week, new Interior Minister Marco Minniti visited Tripoli, Libya to reach an agreement on combatting irregular migration with Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). GNA is one of three governments in Libya competing for power, but Italy has decided not to wait for the emergence of a central government before beginning negotiations. The country also re-opened its embassy in Tripoli last week.

This shows that Italy is renewing its strategy, which was based on a “friendship” treaty that former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made with the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi back in 2008. The treaty enabled Italian ships to intercept boats carrying illegal migrants and return them to Libya, where those on board faced detention and deportation.

The new agreement between Italy and GNA aims to boost the latter’s coastguard capability and assure more control of Libya’s southern border, where most illegal migrants currently enter the country in smuggler vehicles. However, GNA has limited authority in the south where regional tribes control the main smuggling routes.

Before heading to Tripoli, the Italian Interior Minister was in Tunis to discuss a repatriation agreement that could smooth the way for Italy to more easily deport Tunisian migrants, most of whom don’t qualify for asylum.

A week after Anise Amri, the Tunisian who devised the Berlin attack in December 2016 that claimed dozens of lives, was shot dead by police near Milan, Italy’s police chief issued a directive urging officers to take “extraordinary action” to help deport more illegal migrants. The Italian interior ministry also announced plans to open detention centers in every Italian region where illegal migrants would be held prior to their forced return.