Italy to invest 1 billion euros in North Africa

Italy plans to invest in a 1 billion euro “development fund” for North African countries, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said in an interview with local news channel, Sky TG23.

Countries that will benefit from this initiative form the main points of origin and transit for irregular migrants heading towards Europe. The far-right minister said in early August that the fund will be directed towards the sectors of agriculture, fishing and trade.

“Our aim is to control the southern borders … and, to reply to those who see me as Satan, we are preparing a project that provides for at least a 1 billion euros in investments to support the economy and the work of hundreds of thousands of people in hardship,” Salvini said. He added that the initiative is part of a wider plan to confront what he sees as interrelated security issues like criminal rings and immigration.

Italy is taking a hardline approach to tackle the flow of irregular migrants from North Africa. Since 2016, the country received more migrants through the Mediterranean routes than its neighbors. In response, the country has recently closed off its ports to ships carrying rescued migrants.

Insisting that closing ports and sending irregular migrants back to North Africa might not be “enough,” Salvini said “it is also necessary to create prospects of growth and work in the countries [of origin].”

Salvini said he will persuade the Italian parliament to enact a new law that would revoke the right for migrants with criminal records to seek asylum. He has also called on the EU to include a “repatriation clause” in any future trade arrangement with African countries.  

Salvini will also be visiting Morocco, Tunisia and Libya, where his ministry, together with the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, have recently secured 90.5 million euros’ worth of financing for migration-related programmes under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. The programmes are mainly intended to improve these countries’ border management and emergency assistance capacities.

More than 600,000 African migrants are believed to have reached Italian shores since 2013. It is estimated that 80 percent of these migrants still live in the country.

TMP – 20/08/2018

Photo source: Vice news. Photo caption: Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.