Sixty-five shipwreck victims were drifting in the Maltese search and rescue area, 54 miles from Lampedusa, facing six-foot waves, with the engine broken down and no rescue in sight. As these events unfolded, Thursday morning, the Chamber of Deputies was voting on the package of missions abroad, which passed with 453 “yes” votes and 9 abstentions.
For the Libya section, a separate vote was needed: the green light was given (as had already happened in the Senate), but with 401 “yes” votes, 23 “no” votes and two abstentions. The quorum of 213 was reached thanks to the center-right, because only 206 were present from the majority. Italia Viva did not participate in the vote, while the votes against came from the LeU (seven), PD (eight), the Mixed group (five) and the M5S (three). The division within the yellow-red majority had already emerged, but was further consolidated Thursday.
In a resolution presented by those opposed, signed by 22 parliamentarians, the first signatory, Erasmo Palazzotto of the LeU, stressed: “The mission in Libya makes obvious a contradiction in the majority.” Then, at the moment of the vote, he said: “I will not be an accomplice. Whom are we giving our patrol boats to? Whom are we training? Those who are trafficking in human beings? Unacceptable.”
The floor speeches decried this policy that is perpetuating itself from one government to the next: “Libya has never been a safe haven,” said Laura Boldrini. “Supporting the Libyan Coast Guard means supporting human rights violations.”
The Democrat Matteo Orfini said that “funding it means supporting those who kill, rape, torture. To do so while saying that we will ask them to behave nicely is just an enormous hypocrisy.”
From the same parliamentary group, Giuditta Pini said that “the refinancing of the Libyan Coast Guard was also voted by the majority of the Democratic Party, despite the fact that the party congress had expressly opposed it. Two parties out of four in the majority no longer want to support this mission. At the same time, the PD voted together with the Lega and the M5S.”
The Democrats are the target of much criticism. Riccardo Magi from +Europa stressed that “a year ago, the PD did not participate in the vote on the extension of the mission, arguing that the strategy had to be changed and the detention centers emptied. [On Thursday], the Italian government has ordered the extension with an increase in funding, and the PD, except for a few, voted to continue. A schizophrenic outcome.”
Emma Bonino said: “The government has just refinanced the Libyan Coast Guard as if such a thing really existed. Italy is paying to stop the migrant flows in the Mediterranean by any means, even the most inhuman; it is the ATM for these operations.” But the PD vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, Marina Sereni, was unfazed: “We are working for the modification of the Memorandum with Tripoli to favor the access of international organizations to the migrant centers, with the aim of moving beyond them.”
Those who were united behind the “no” vote wrote to the government on Thursday: “A part of the majority, cutting through all its political forces, is asking for discontinuity in the management of the migration phenomenon. The complicity in illegal rejections to a country at war, where people are suffering unspeakable violence, means our joint responsibility in the human rights violations.” Some thirty or so deputies plus three MEPs have asked for a discussion to address the issue.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgere flew to Tripoli to discuss migration, security, and also business. The delegation was received by the Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord, Fayez al Sarraj, and the main members of his executive. After the plenary session, there was a bilateral meeting with her counterpart, Fathi Bashagha, the strongman in charge of Misrata. The talks focused on cooperation in the field of security, the fight against illegal immigration, the return of Italian companies to Libya, the removal of mines left behind by Haftar’s forces and the reopening of oil wells.
Lamorgese tabled a position that must have sounded pleasing to Sarraj’s Turkish protectors: “We confirm the orientation, already expressed by the Italian government, according to which the commitment made by the EU in the agreement with Turkey can and should be replicated also in the central quadrant of the Mediterranean.”
Thus, the 2016 agreement with Ankara to block the migrant flows on the eastern route, sponsored by Germany (in the amount of €6 billion to Turkey), is set to be replicated with Libya; meanwhile, the war is not stopping and the militias continue to make a profit from the migrants. This is a direction that emerged on Monday at the Trieste conference, promoted by Italy in agreement with the EU Commission and the German presidency, and with the participation of the North African governments from whose territories the main flows originate. It is a proposal that then-minister Alfano had already made in 2016.
Lamorgese reiterated “the need to control borders and flows with respect for human rights” and to “activate evacuation operations of the centers managed by the government through humanitarian corridors organized by the EU and managed by the IOM and UNHCR.” The implementation of the Interior Ministry’s project, co-financed by the IOM and UNHCR, to enhance local security forces was once again highlighted: on Thursday, 30 vehicles were delivered for the purpose of controlling the land borders.