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Italy and Libya sign accord to combat immigration, human trafficking

by Gerardo Pelosi

With the reopening of the Italian embassy in Tripoli after nearly two years, bilateral agreements on fighting illegal immigration and human trafficking will become operative. Italy's new ambassador to Libya, Giuseppe Perrone, will present his credentials today to Prime Minister Fayez al Serraj, after having received Interior Minister Marco Minniti yesterday.

Minniti was visiting Tripoli to launch a new era of cooperation on immigration that will be formalized with the signing of a bilateral accord in Rome by the end of January in conjunction with a visit by Serraj to Italy.

According to Italy's Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano: “After two years, Italy becomes operative in Libya with an ambassador presenting his credential to the local government.

The reopening of the embassy is a very important sign of friendship to all the Libyan people and a strong signal of confidence in the process of stabilization in the country. We are working for concrete results on the fight against illegal immigration and human trafficking.”

The two sides have agreed that the Italian embassy will become a “primary coordination center” for all joint between Italy and Libya in the battle against “contraband in all its forms” and the protection of borders, particularly the African nation's southern borders.

In addition to Serraj, Minniti also met with members of the cabinet Maitig and Kajman and foreign minister Mohammed Siyala (Interior Minister Khodja was indisposed and not present).

Siyala noted the text of a letter sent to his Italian counterpart Alfano, who was in New York yesterday to discuss Libya at the first meeting of the UN Security Council. Siyala affirmed the commitment to cap negotiations on the memorandum of understanding on immigration, presenting a new draft agreement that will be sent to the Foreign Ministry today.

Presidente Serraj was appreciative of the reopening of the Italian embassy, which was announced by Siyala and Minniti at a press conference. He reiterated his commitment, and that of the Libyan government, to work with Italy to fight terrorism, human trafficking and other illegal activities.

Both sides in the accord recognize that the security of Libya's southern border, a crossing point for almost all immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, is fundamental to contain human trafficking, before the immigrants arrive in coastal towns.

Libya stressed the need to extend the bilateral cooperation to all forms of contraband, including the highly worrisome trend of fuel smuggling. The agreement will augment previous cooperation efforts between the two interior ministries in the area of illegal immigration and human trafficking and the supply of material and training to combat it.

Minniti reaffirmed Italy's commitment to move quickly in implementing all relevant useful measures, including European initiatives (the Eunavfor Med mission) starting with naval operation to neutralize smugglers and train Libya's new coast guard, including aboard the eight Italian patrol boats that will soon be delivered to Libya.