Illegal flows of migrants are damaging all countries across the Mediterranean, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on July 23rd, as she sought to forge a broad alliance of nations to fight human trafficking, reports Reuters.
Softening her past hard-line rhetoric, Meloni told an international conference in Rome that her government was open to taking in more people through legal routes as “Europe and Italy needed immigration.”
But she said more needed to be done to prevent migrants trying to make the perilous Mediterranean crossing via unauthorized means.
“Mass illegal immigration harms each and every one of us. No one benefits from this, except criminal groups who get rich at the expenses of the most fragile and use their strength even against the governments,” she said.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen echoed Meloni’s point about offering legal routes into the 27-nation European Union (EU).
The EU and Tunisia, a major departure point for migrants, last week signed a “strategic partnership” deal that includes cracking down on human traffickers and tightening borders.
Europe has pledged 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in aid to help Tunisia with its battered economy, with 100 million euros specifically earmarked for tackling illegal migration.
“We want our agreement with Tunisia to be a template. A blueprint for the future. For partnerships with other countries in the region,” von der Leyen told the conference.
The EU could work with countries such as Tunisia in expanding their production of renewable energy to the benefit of all, she added.
Mohamed al-Menfi, head of Libya’s Presidential Council, called for help from richer nations.
“We are ready to participate in the effective way to stop the suffering of migrants,” he said.