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No changes to migration accord with Libya: Italy

Thursday - March 14, 2019 12:20 am , Category : WORLD
Rome, March 14 (IANS/AKI) The Italian government has no plans to revise a 2017 agreement with Libya aimed at halting the influx of boat migrants from the lawless North African country, Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini told lawmakers on Wednesday.
"Libya must be maintained as a priority country for the European Union's cooperation strategy," Salvini told a hearing at the lower house of parliament.
"We are doing everything possible and more to ensure the presence of international organisations such as the UN refugee agency at official migrant camps in order to guarantee that human rights are upheld," he said.
Ending people smuggling is the only way to wipe out human rights abuses that have been reported against migrants held in illegal camps, Salvini claimed.
"Human trafficking is currently more profitable than arms and drugs trafficking."
Libya's coastguard has been patrolling the Mediterranean since striking a deal with Italy in February 2017 that empowered it to intercept and bring migrants back to a country where aid agencies say they suffer torture and abuse.
Salvini has reinforced the 2017 deal, which entailed Italy providing funds and equipment. The accord was made by Marco Minniti, the former Interior Minister from the centre-left Democratic party, in an attempt to stem the migrant flow.
He also said that Italy pledges to ensure Libya's authorities fully respect migrants' human rights and vows to uphold the country's sovereignty and international law as well.
"Our countries is committed to making sure than Libyan authorities act in full respect of human right and that conditions are improved for migrants and refugees in Libya," he said.
"Italy, in full respect of Libya's sovereignty and international conventions has supported the internationally approved efforts of its authorities within the framework of the MoU on cooperation to fight illegal immigration and human trafficking," Salvini said.
Thanks to the measures in place to fight people smuggling, migrant arrivals to Italy had plunged by 95 percent this year from 2018, and even sharper drop than was recorded last year from 2017, Salvini noted.
Just 335 boat migrants reached Italy in 2019 compared with 5,938 in 2018, he said.
Italy's Foreign Ministry is working with international organisations on voluntary repatriation programmes, which the government is especially eager to expand, Salvini told the MPs.

--IANS/AKI
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