Migration must be top EU priority: Italian PM

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Bucharest, April 19 (IANS/AKI) Italy has tried hard to manage migration from Africa, the Middle East and Asia — a “long-term” phenomenon that must be a top priority for the European Union, Premier Paolo Gentiloni said on Thursday.

“We have made a major effort but this phenomenon (migration) is not just momentary and will be with us for decades to come,” he told reporters after a meeting with Romania’s President Klaus Werner Iohannis here.

“We need migration to help our countries’ economic development and must prevent it becoming a source of insecurity and fear,” Gentiloni said.

Ioannis praised Italy’s “wise and effective” migration policies and “the extraordinarily good results it has achieved in controlling migration in the Mediterranean”.

Italy is the main entry point for boat migrants to Europe from Africa and over 600,000 boat migrants have reached Italy across the Mediterranean since 2014, severely straining the country’s reception facilities.

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In a bid to stem the influx, the government is helping train Libyan coastguard intercept migrant boats in the Mediterranean and last year introduced a code of conduct for charity rescue ships. It has also sought more solidarity from other European nations amid reluctance to take in refugees.

By the end of last year, only 32,000 out of 120,000 refugees had been relocated from Italy and fellow front-line state Greece to other countries under mandatory quotas agreed at a European Union summit in 2015.

This year, 7,495 migrants crossed the Mediterranean from Italy and 359 drowned through April 15, a sharp drop from the 30,129 arrivals and 847 deaths over the same period last year, figures from the United Nations migration agency the International Organisation for Migration show.

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