Mediterranean countries present united front in fight against human trafficking
Best way to fight is to intensify efforts to eradicate poverty and create jobs
Mediterranean governments on Friday pledged to cooperate in the war against human traffickers and called for efforts to counter the threat of racism and xenophobia.
A declaration on the matter and other issues of concern was signed by the five Mediterranean countries of Malta, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal and the North African countries of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Mauritania during a summit held in Floriana on Friday.
Known as the 5+5 dialogue, the meeting saw Foreign Affairs Ministers from all these countries call for the applicable migration and human rights laws to be respected and for operations of the relevant national authorities both on land as well as by vessels at sea not to be hindered.
Ministers also agreed on the importance of migration policies to be adopted on “evidence-based analysis and a balanced narrative” and said reinforcements were needed.
“While the challenges raised by citizens’ concerns and perceptions about migration in countries of destination must be acknowledged and taken seriously, they must be balanced by messages that avoid any attempt of racism or xenophobia and the contributions of migrants and refugees to social, economic, scientific and cultural development,” the 11-page declaration signed on Friday reads.
The ministers also agreed that addressing the root causes of irregular migration required the intensification of efforts to eradicate poverty, create jobs, cope with the current and future impacts of climate change, enhance good governance, prevent and resolve conflicts, consolidate peace and counter terrorism.
Addressing a press conference to mark the end of the meeting, Foreign Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela, who co-chaired the meeting, said the governments agreed that the solutions to this problem were multi-faceted. Improving the wellbeing of those who lived in the North African region was a good step towards tackling outward migration.
Co-chair Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel told the Times of Malta that the link between economic measures and migration was clear.
Illustrating this, he explained how in his home country tour guides used to take tourists on tours of the Sahel region in the desert. Today, these were instead working with human trafficking rings because they knew the area well and could find no other work. Finding employment solutions for these people could help fight trafficking in the area, he said.
It was solutions like this, he added, that needed to be agreed upon between countries in the region.
Other matters raised in the declaration included the situation in Libya - in which the governments reiterated their support for the internationally recognised government there. The Middle East peace process, and the Sahel were also discussed.