Rome, July 12 (IANS/AKI) Italy will give more help to Libyan Coast Guard patrols intercepting migrants in the Mediterranean and Premier Giuseppe Conte will urge his Tunisian counterpart Youssef Chahed to step up coastal patrols and bolster bilateral expulsion accords.
A statement from Conte’s office said that it was agreed at a meeting late on Wednesday it was agreed that the Italian government will contribute to further support for the Libyan Coast Guard in terms of equipment and training.
While this year has seen drastic fall in the number of migrants landing on Italy’s coast (some 3,000 against 17,000 in 2018), there is “a continuous” flow of small boats arriving from Tunisia, the statement noted.
“Given the continuous flow of small boats arriving in our country from Tunisia… Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will start dialogue with Tunisian Premier Youssef Chahed on intensifying patrols along its coasts and on strengthening existing repatriation agreements,” said the statement.
Conte’s planned negotiations with Chahed follows talks on migration between Italy’s hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi and respective Tunisian counterparts, the statement said.
At European Interior and Foreign ministers meetings in mid-July, Salvini and Moavero will also repeat Italy’s longstanding call for “an effective European mechanism” to relocate migrants who land in Italy, the statement went on.
Conte will also lobby for a Europe-wide migrant relocation mechanism at the next “opportune” summit of European leaders, the statement added.
Upon taking office in June last year, Salvini closed Italy’s ports to migrant rescue ships leading to numerous international standoffs that left hundreds of migrants stranded at sea. He has also vowed to deport half a million people under his ‘zero’ immigration policy.
Over 700,000 migrants have landed in Italy since 2014.