G7 leaders tackle the issue of migration on the second day of summit in Italy

14 June 2024, 06:04

Italy G7
Italy G7. Picture: PA

The gathering in a luxury resort in Italy’s southern Puglia region is also discussing other major topics.

Leaders of the G7 are turning their attention to migration on the second day of their summit on Friday, seeking ways to combat trafficking and increase investment in countries from where migrants start out on often life-threatening journeys.

The gathering in a luxury resort in Italy’s southern Puglia region is also discussing other major topics, such as financial support for Ukraine, the war in Gaza, artificial intelligence and climate change, as well as China’s industrial policy and economic security.

But some divisions also appeared to emerge over the wording of the summit’s final declaration, with disagreement reported over the inclusion of a reference to abortion.

Migration is of particular interest to summit host Italy, which lies on one of the major routes into the European Union for people fleeing war and poverty in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Italy G7
Mr Biden, left, is welcomed by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni during a G7 world leaders summit at Borgo Egnazia, Italy (Luca Bruno/AP)

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, known for her hard-line stance on the issue, has been keen to increase investment and funding for African nations as a means of reducing migratory pressure on Europe.

Italy “wanted to dedicate ample space to another continent that is fundamental to the future of all of us, which is Africa, with its difficulties, its opportunities,” Ms Meloni said at the summit opening on Thursday.

“Linked to Africa, and not only to Africa, there is another fundamental issue that Italy has placed at the centre of the presidency, which is the issue of migration, the increasingly worrying role that trafficking organizations are assuming, clearly exploiting the desperation of human beings,” she said.

Ms Meloni has a controversial five-year deal with neighboring Albania for the Balkan country to host thousands of asylum-seekers while Italy processes their claims.

She has also spearheaded the “Mattei Plan” for Africa, a continentwide strategy to increase economic opportunities at home and so discourage migration to Europe.

Italy G7
Mr Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, shake hands after signing a security agreement on the sidelines of the G7 (Alex Brandon/AP)

More than 22,000 people have arrived in Italy by sea so far in 2024, according to UNHCR figures. In 2023, more than 157,000 arrived, and nearly 2,000 died or went missing while attempting the perilous Mediterranean crossing.

The United States has also been struggling with a growing number of migrants at its southern border. US President Joe Biden introduced new policies to curb migration after a bill he tried to get through Congress failed to pass.

Immigrant rights advocates filed lawsuits on Thursday over the new policies and it is unclear whether they will be able to withstand the legal challenges in the US courts.

Tackling migration “is a common challenge,” European Council president Charles Michel said after arriving at the summit.

“This is the route that we intend, together with our partners, to put in place: this coalition to fight against the smugglers, these criminal groups which are abusing (vulnerable people) to make money and to destabilise regions and countries across the world,” he added.

Apart from the G7 nations of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the US, the Italian hosts have also invited several African leaders — Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Kenyan President William Ruto and Tunisian President Kais Saied — to press Ms Meloni’s migration and development initiatives.

Pope Francis will also become the first pontiff to address a G7 summit when he delivers a speech on artificial intelligence on Friday.

Other invitees include Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

By Press Association

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