Saudi Arabia, UAE participate in Italy conference on migration crisis

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Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates participated on Sunday in an international conference on migration in Italy’s Rome aimed at discussing the migration crisis and its impact on nations.

The Kingdom was represented at the International Conference on Development and Migration by Minister of the Interior Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, who headed a delegation on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

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While highlighting the Kingdom’s humanitarian work and projects that aim at raising awareness of the dangers of illegal migration and the different forms of exploitation, Prince Abdulaziz expressed Saudi Arabia’s appreciation for the efforts exerted by Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in organizing the event.

SPA added that Prince Abdulaziz also relayed the Kingdom’s call on the international community to achieve solidarity and cooperation in order to address the political, social and economic aspects behind irregular migration.

Saudi Arabia also called on the international community to take necessary action to face challenges related to combating exploitation and smuggling crimes, and to confront the dangers caused by organized crime networks.

For his part, UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan participated in the conference where he announced his country’s pledge of $100 million to support development projects in countries affected by irregular immigration, state news agency WAM reported.

During the conference the nations from the Mediterranean, Middle East and Africa agreed on steps to try to slow unauthorized migration and to tackle some of the pressures driving people to leave their homes and attempt to reach Europe.

Led by Meloni, the new alliance committed to crack down on people smuggling, but also to improve cooperation in areas such as renewable energy to fight climate change and improve the prospects of poorer nations.

The conference included participants from more than 20 countries who agreed to make funding available to support development projects in what Meloni said would be a “Rome Process” that would last for several years.

She welcomed UAE’s pledge to provide $100 million and said the next step would be to organize a donors conference.

At the event, the Italian premier said that illegal flows of migrants are damaging all countries across the Mediterranean.

Softening her past hard-line rhetoric, Meloni told the conference that her government was open to taking in more people through legal routes as “Europe and Italy needed immigration.”

But she said more needed to be done to prevent migrants trying to make the perilous Mediterranean crossing via unauthorized means.

“Mass illegal immigration harms each and every one of us. No one benefits from this, except criminal groups who get rich at the expenses of the most fragile and use their strength even against the governments,” she said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen echoed Meloni’s point about offering legal routes into the 27-nation European Union (EU).

The EU and Tunisia, a major departure point for migrants, last week signed a “strategic partnership” deal that includes cracking down on human traffickers and tightening borders.

Europe has pledged 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in aid to help Tunisia with its battered economy, with 100 million euros specifically earmarked for tackling illegal migration.

“We want our agreement with Tunisia to be a template. A blueprint for the future. For partnerships with other countries in the region,” von der Leyen told the conference.

Tunisian President Kais Saied was among those attending.

The EU could work with countries such as Tunisia in expanding their production of renewable energy to the benefit of all, she added.

Mohamed al-Menfi, head of Libya’s Presidential Council, called for help from richer nations.

“We are ready to participate in the effective way to stop the suffering of migrants,” he said.

Pope speaks out

Speaking to crowds in nearby St. Peter’s Square earlier on Sunday, Pope Francis called on European and African governments to help migrants trapped in desert areas in north Africa and to ensure that the Mediterranean was never again “a theater of death” for those attempting to cross.

Conference host Italy is struggling to cope with the number of unauthorized migrants arriving in centers such as its far southern island of Lampedusa.

However, it also has an ageing and declining population and needs additional workers to support its economy.

Earlier this month, Italy pledged to issue 452,000 new work visas for non-EU nationals from 2023 to 2025, increasing the number of permits available each year to a high of 165,000 in 2025. In 2019, before COVID-19 struck, Italy issued just 30,850 visas.

Arrivals in Italy are surging this year with over 83,000 people coming ashore so far compared with around 34,000 in the same period in 2022.

“We have to solve the migratory issue at its roots,” Foreign Ministry Antonio Tajani said.

“We have to confront each other on the big issues of climate change, the fight against terrorism, diseases, poverty.”

With Reuters

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