The migratory pressure that Italy has been experiencing since the beginning of this year is unsustainable. It is the result of a very difficult international conjuncture, which combines the problems that Africa already had with a situation of growing instability particularly in the Sahel area. It is a very difficult picture, including coups, natural disasters, the wheat war, and jihadism, which could lead several tens of millions of people to want to leave their nations to seek a better future in Europe.
It is clear, however, that Italy and Europe cannot accommodate this huge mass of people, particularly when the flow of migration is managed by unscrupulous traffickers and moves along illegal routes.
Naval mission to stop the departure of barges: the paradigm shift called for in Europe
The Italian government has worked since it took office to address this problem in a structural way, proposing the only path that can give the phenomenon a lasting solution. While before all the debate in Europe focused on how to welcome those arriving illegally and the rules of their distribution in the 27 European countries, we called for a total paradigm shift. Stop human traffickers and mass illegal immigration upstream. Focus on defending the external borders and not on the distribution of migrants. This paradigm shift is today written in black and white in the European Council conclusions.
How is it achieved? As we have always proposed to do, and as it is written in our programs: with a European mission – even naval if necessary – in agreement with the authorities in North Africa to stop the departure of the barges, verify in Africa who is entitled or not entitled to asylum, welcome in Europe only those who are actually entitled, according to international conventions. And in parallel working with serious investment in the development of the African continent, so that Africa can live and prosper from its many resources and the training of workers useful to the European economy to be included in paths of legal and effectively integrated immigration.
This is what we have been working on from day one. Convincing Europe, talking to all the authorities in North Africa, laying the groundwork for solid agreements with African governments.
The economic and social crisis in Tunisia, the EU-Tunis agreement: the agreed 250 million euros have not yet been transferred to Tunisia.
Thanks to this work we were able to get the situation of departures from Libya under control, which until a few months ago was Italy's real problem. But in the meantime, the situation in Tunisia, a nation facing a serious economic crisis that inevitably affects us as well, precipitated. The Italian government then worked by involving the European Commission on a cooperation agreement that between Europe and Tunisia that includes combating irregular flows on the one hand and supporting the Tunisian economy on the other.
Unfortunately, while Italy and part of Europe were working in this direction, another part of Europe was moving in the opposite direction. I think of the daily attempt of some political forces and influential realities to claim that Tunisia would be an oppressive regime with which you cannot make deals and to even declare that Tunisia would not be a safe haven. And therefore where it is not possible to repatriate irregular migrants or prevent the departure of migrants from those shores. Add to this the fact that despite the agreement signed by the European Commission with the Tunisian government, the agreed 250 million euros have not yet been transferred to Tunisia. This is the picture of the situation that throws Italy into the very difficult condition in which it finds itself.
The announcement: illegal migrants held up to 18 months in repatriation centers, upgrading of detention facilities pending repatriation, mandate to Defense to set up the centers.
Personally, I am still convinced that the Italian government's strategy is the most serious to solve the problem in a structural way, however, it takes time, especially if that work is hampered by ideological interests. It's just that Italy in the meantime cannot wait any longer, because while waiting for final solutions the pressure is now unbearable.
I therefore announce that.
First: I have written to the President of the European Commission to ask her to come with me to Lampedusa to personally realize the gravity of the situation we face and to immediately accelerate the concretization of the agreement with Tunisia by transferring the agreed resources. President Von der Leyen has always been cooperative and we do not doubt that she will be cooperative this time as well.
Second, I have written to European Council President Charles Michel asking him to put the migration issue on the agenda of the October European Council. It is my intention there to reiterate the need to immediately launch a European mission to stop barges from leaving.
Third, in the immediate term, the Italian government intends to take extraordinary measures to deal with the number of landings we have seen in recent days on our shores.
In Monday's Council of Ministers we will bring an amendment to the term of detention in detention centers for the repatriation of those who enter Italy illegally, a limit that will be raised to the maximum allowed by current European regulations, which is 18 months. A term that does not affect asylum seekers, for whom today the maximum detention term is already 12 months and will not be changed. And we are already working on the strengthening of repatriation centers so that anyone who enters Italy illegally will actually be detained in these facilities, for as long as it takes for their eventual asylum claim to be defined and for their actual deportation if they are irregular, because other years of immigrationist governments have handed us a situation for which the places in the Centers of Permanence for Repatriation are scandalously scarce. So, in the Council of Ministers, the Defense will be given a mandate to build the facilities as soon as possible so that they are sufficient to detain illegal immigrants. We will mandate that these facilities be built in locations with very low population density and easily perimeter and surveillance.
The message to illegal immigrants: ‘It's not convenient for you'
And so I want to send a clear message to those who want to enter Italy illegally: it is not convenient to rely on human traffickers because they ask you for a lot of money, they put you on boats that are often not equipped to make those journeys, and in any case if you enter Italy illegally you will be detained and repatriated. Our situation does not allow for anything different.
To the Italians I want to say: we have not changed our minds. It will take time and a lot of work, patience and determination, but we have not changed our minds. We are working every day to fulfill the commitments we have signed with you, in every area, including restoring legality and combating illegal immigration.