By Stefania Fumo ROME Italy (Xinhua)
-- Italian Prime Minister Paolo
Gentiloni has said the government would ask the parliament to
move some Italian troops from Iraq to the western African
country of Niger, in order to fight human traffickers and
terrorism in the landlocked country south of Libya.
has 6,800 troops deployed in 33 non-combat missions jointly
with NATO, the EU, and the UN in 22 different countries, most
of them in Africa and the Middle East, according to Italian
ministry of defense.
In a pre-Christmas
address to Navy officers and crew on board the Navy ship Etna
on Sunday, the premier said the fight against human
traffickers—who bring illegal migrants from sub-Saharan Africa
and the Middle East across the Mediterranean to southern
Europe—is one of Italy’s “strategic and fundamental
The Etna ship is
part of EUNavForMed, a European Union mission launched in 2015
to fight human traffickers in the Mediterranean.
“We have dealt
blows to the human traffickers that perhaps we didn’t even
imagine possible,” Gentiloni said in reference to deals Italy
struck with Libya this year, which significantly reduced the
number of traffickers’ boats crossing the Mediterranean.
Gentiloni went on
to say his government will propose that Italy move some troops
presently in Iraq—where their mission includes defending the
Mosul dam from the so-called Islamic State (IS) extremist
militia and training local forces—to Niger, a landlocked
country on Libya’s southern border.
The objective of
such a move, Gentiloni said, will be to fight human
traffickers in Niger, a major country of transit for refugees
being smuggled from Nigeria and other conflict areas, across
the Sahara desert and towards the Mediterranean.
been consolidating...in Africa” and this is why troops should
be moved to Niger, Gentiloni explained in his speech, which
was posted on the government’s website.
He also pointed
out that Italy is not backing down on its commitment to
For example, Italy
has opened a humanitarian corridor to grant refugees safe and
legal passage out of migrant detention centers in Libya, the
On December 22, a
total of 162 refugees, most of them women and children, landed
at Pratica di Mare military airport near Rome.
Minister Marco Minniti—who was instrumental in striking
agreements with Libya to shut down the trafficking routes—was
there to meet them on arrival.
“This is a
historic day,” Minniti said, according to an interior ministry
“For the first
time a humanitarian corridor has been opened from Libya
The 162 refugees
arrived thanks to an agreement between Italy, Libya, the
United Nations, and the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI),
the statement said.
“This is just the
beginning,” Minniti said.
continue...fighting illegality and building legality.”
Italy has borne
the brunt of the migrant crisis because its southernmost
islands are the first European landfall for migrant vessels
crossing the Mediterranean.