Helping asylum seekers a ‘humanitarian imperative’: Italian minister

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Rome, Nov 23 (IANS) Helping African and Middle Eastern asylum seekers who cross the Mediterranean in search of safety is a “humanitarian imperative”, Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi has said.

In his keynote speech at the 4th annual Mediterranean Dialogues Conference (MED) which kicked off here on Thursday, Moavero Milanesi appeared to criticise the policies of the right-wing populist government he serves, Xinhua reported.

The right-wing government won the general election in March by promising voters it would put “Italy First”, and which has banned international migrant-rescue NGOs from the country’s ports and cracked down with raids, police round-ups, and prosecutions on asylum seekers and anyone who tries to help them,

“First and foremost, there are humanitarian priorities and imperatives,” he said in reference to migration.

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“We must never forget that these are people — we must never forget that not only international law but also our deepest values as human beings should make us understand that whoever flees war and devastation must find welcome,” the Italian Foreign Minister said to resounding applauses.

The second keynote speaker, Iraqi President Barham Salih, said that Iraq is trying to rebuild itself after suffering “the trauma of war, conflict, sanctions, repression, economic mismanagement and corruption” for decades.

“The most important and consequential challenge for Iraq today is economic reform and regeneration,” said Salif. “Iraq is endowed with immense natural resources, water, and fertile land, and thanks to its geopolitical position it could become the hub for regional trade and economic integration.”

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According to Salih, Iraq is launching a Reconstruction Agency that will be seeking investments from Iraqi and foreign businesses, international financial institutions, and donor countries to enact an ambitious economic restructuring agenda to build the infrastructure needed to regenerate Iraq’s economy.

“Iraq is an important strategic hub that joins the Arab world and Turkey, and connects the Gulf economies with Europe,” said Salih, adding that the people of Iraq and the Middle East in general deserve peace and prosperity.

Speakers at the three-day conference will include NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Undersecretary of State David Hale, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, plus ministers and parliament speakers from Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Malta, Oman and Palestine.

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–IANS

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