Attending the meeting, the second since the Contact Group was created in Rome last March, were the Interior Ministers of eight European countries: Italy, France, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Switzerland, Malta and Estonia. Also present were their colleagues from Tunisia, Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali and Niger. In addition, the E.U. Commissioner for Immigration Dimitri Avramopoulos attended. Once again, as has been happening for almost two years now, the goal of the summit was to try to extend the E.U.’s borders by convincing African leaders to work together to stop direct migrant flows into Europe.
That’s why the participation of the Chad and Niger ministers is considered particularly important by the Viminale. These two Sahel countries, which share a 5,000-kilometer border with Libya, are the main points of passage of migrant caravans. There, the European Union would like to set up camps managed by IOM and UNHCR to stop migrants by providing them with information and assistance, but especially, to convince them to repatriate voluntarily. For this purpose, on Monday, new funding would be allocated to the two organizations.
Meanwhile, Tuesday afternoon at the Viminale, there was a meeting between Minister Minniti and the NGOs engaged in the Mediterranean Sea. On the table is the new code of conduct that humanitarian organizations, which are responsible for a large number of rescues, will have to stick to in the future. The meeting will only be the start of the debate, but it seems clear that only some NGOs, probably the largest, will agree to sign up for the new rules which, among other things, require the presence of a law enforcement officer on board and the ban on transhipment of rescued migrants to other vessels.
“The risk with this is that a rift will be created between the good NGOs and those that will refuse to sign the new code, thus slowing the rescue operations of migrants,” explained lawyer Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo, President of the Rights and Border Association. He is mainly concerned by the fact that in the future, transferring saved migrants on board larger ships might be prevented.