The International Conference on Migration and Development comes a week after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Tunisia and the European Union to combat illegal immigration originating from Tunisian shores in exchange for financial and economic support
Tunisian President Kais Saied left for the Italian capital, Rome, on Saturday to participate in the international conference on migration and development scheduled for the following Sunday, at the invitation of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Meanwhile, it is expected that France will be absent from this meeting, which is considered important amid tensions between Rome and Paris that have surfaced recently.
Saied was the first to call for organizing the conference with the participation of North African countries, Sub-Saharan African countries, and North Mediterranean countries to discuss the escalating crisis of illegal immigration and propose collective solutions.
The conference comes a week after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Tunisia and the European Union to combat illegal immigration originating from Tunisian shores in exchange for financial and economic support.
Tunisia is a frontline state in the Mediterranean Sea migration crisis, as thousands of arrivals from Sub-Saharan African countries seek to cross to Italian territories from its coasts.
The conference includes some Mediterranean countries and Middle Eastern countries, with participants focusing on enhancing efforts to combat illegal immigration. Italy stated that the goal of the meeting is to assist African countries in reducing migration motives to Europe.
The Italian government said in a statement that the meeting will focus on building a partnership to establish projects in sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure, and health, adding that “the conference aims to control the phenomenon of immigration, combat human trafficking, and promote economic development in accordance with a new model of cooperation between countries.”
Italian officials stated to Reuters that the countries expected to participate in the meeting are Tunisia, Turkey, Libya, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, in addition to the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
However, it is not expected that France will be among the participating countries in the meeting, and its absence could weaken the chances of reaching strong results. Paris entered into a confrontation with Italy last year regarding immigration.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose country is witnessing an increase in the rate of immigration this year, gives priority to involving other countries in plans to prevent migrants from embarking on risky journeys to Europe.
Meloni leads a right-wing coalition since October and her efforts so far to stop this increase in the number of arrivals have stumbled. Approximately 83,400 people have reached the Italian shores so far this year, compared to about 34,000 people in 2022.
At least 94 people were killed when their boat crashed off the coast of Calabria in late February, and such tragedies continue to occur on the route of illegal migration by sea between Tunisia and Italy or between Libya and Italy.
The government said that the conference will also discuss issues related to climate change and energy, while Italy is working to implement a cooperation initiative in the energy sector with Africa, known as the “Matti Plan,” named after the founder of the Italian energy group Eni after the war period
Human Rights Watch, a human rights advocacy organization, said that the agreement “does not provide guarantees that the Tunisian authorities will prevent violations of the rights of migrants and asylum seekers,” referring to President Kais Saied’s campaign against illegal African migrants residing in Tunisia, many of whom have intentions of migrating to Europe.