Italian Мinister Defends Methods that Led to 87% Drop in Migrants From Libya
In his eight months in office, Marco Minniti, the austere Italian interior minister, has overseen a huge reduction in the number of African migrants and refugees reaching Italian shores from Libya, reported The Guardian.
At the last count in August, the figure was 87% down on the previous year.
A former communist with deep connections with Italian intelligence and the levers of the Italian state, Minniti is one of the most controversial politicians in Europe. His success in reducing migrant flows has won him praise and popularity on the right and notoriety on parts of the left.
There have been rumours of deals struck in the desert to induce tribes and militia to end the business of human trafficking. It is claimed his methods are fragile, and leave unresolved the fate of the tens of thousands of migrants trapped in Libya in inhumane detention camps unable to reach Italy and unwilling to return to their country of origin on the other side of the Sahara desert.
Minniti offered a stout defence of his methods in an interview in Italy this week. His country had faced an unprecedented moment in the history of migration, he said.
In June, on the way to a meeting in the US, he stopped at Shannon airport to find his phone full of warnings that in the space of 24 hours there had been 12,500 arrivals in 25 vessels operating across the Mediterranean. He feared for Italian democracy. “I had a problem. Should I continue my flight to Washington on the basis of showing the show must go on, or should I go back and by doing so dramatise everything?
“I thought I had to come back to be with operators overseeing the humanitarian rescue. We needed to transmit a message that we as the government had the capacity to react.”
The deeper worry for Minniti was that he had already set in train the reforms designed to stem the flow, but at that stage the fruits of his effort were invisible. It was only in July and August that the picture transformed.
“The crucial point for me had been to go to Libya to find a solution. In Turkey with its migrant crisis there was a strong leader with which to work – perhaps too strong. In Libya it was the opposite.” In many ways Minniti, faced by a fatally divided national state, was trying to create an alternative set of state institutions.
In February he signed a memorandum with the leader of the UN-recognised government, Fayez al-Serraj, introducing a new level of cooperation between the coastguard and the Italians, including the provision of four patrol vessels. “If we look at results the Libyan coastguard has saved more than 13,000 people – figures that were absolutely unthinkable at the start of the year
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