Gentiloni in Nigeria and Ivory Coast for deals on migrant flows

One in five arrivals from Nigeria, agreement expected by fall

05 August, 14:55

    A rescue operation in the Mediterranean sea A rescue operation in the Mediterranean sea

    ABUJA/ABIDJAN - Stopping migrant flows through police operations is not possible and the only option available is to manage them by acting, or attempting to act, on the causes and contexts that lead tens of thousands of desperate people to leave, in cooperation with their home countries. This is what Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni has started doing with a mission to Nigeria and Ivory Coast.

    Nigeria is the home country of one out of five immigrants landing on Italy's coasts. A reported 12,163 migrants have hailed from that country in the first few months of this year alone. Ivory Coast migrants are fewer than Nigerians, but they are still consistent. From January 1 until July 20 this year, a total of 5,941 Ivorian nationals landed in Italy - 7% of the total - a sharp increase from the 2% recorded in the same period in 2015 and 2014.

    The foreign minister explained to Nigerian leaders the meaning of the 'migration compact', initially supported by Italy alone, now shared by the European Union, which gave its official endorsement at a summit in June.

    The time has now come to implement concrete actions and the foreign minister, first member of a European government to visit one of the countries of origin of a very intense flow of illegal immigrants, after the green light to the compact by the EU, hopes to reach a formal agreement with Nigeria by the fall.

    ''We can work together for a better management of migrant flows in the mutual interest of our countries'', Gentiloni said during the meeting in Abuja with his counterpart Geoffrey Onyeama.

    The issue, according to Gentiloni, is not to ''eliminate'' arrivals but to manage them and ''be active on the causes of migration, for example by working together for the creation of jobs''.

    On the EU front, in the short term the priority is to forge an accord for the readmission between the Union and Nigeria (Italy already has a bilateral accord).

    The start of negotiations is scheduled in October, after a Frontex-Nigeria seminar scheduled on September 7-8 in Warsaw to focus on the issue of readmissions.

    The fight against illegal immigration was also at the center of Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni's trip to the Ivory Coast. The foreign minister spoke about the issue on Friday during a meeting with Ivorian counterpart Abdallah Albert Mabri Toikeusse, who also asked for Italy's support for the candidature of the Ivory Coast as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2018-2019.

    However, illegal immigration was one of the issues that were most central to the talks, in particular a mini bilateral 'migration compact'. Ivory Coast migrants are fewer than Nigerians, as presented by Gentiloni during his trip to Nigeria yesterday, but they are still consistent. From January 1 until July 20 this year, a total of 5,941 Ivorian nationals landed in Italy - 7% of the total - a sharp increase from the 2% recorded in the same period in 2015 and 2014, when there were 1,530.

    Most of them are economic migrants, a 'particularly favorable' situation for the implementation of the migration compact philosophy: working so that development and employment are created in the Ivory Coast. 

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