Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni will ask European Union peers this week to give more money to Africa and create “European humanitarian corridors” to curb irregular immigration, a document showed.
The paper, seen by Reuters, lays out Rome’s position for a Thursday-Friday summit of the 27 EU nations’ leaders in Brussels to discuss increasing arrivals from the Middle East, north Africa and south Asia.
It called for a “more tangible commitment” by Europe “underpinned by meaningful financial resources” to work on everything from border controls to combatting human trafficking with countries along migration routes.
It also sought a new “Pact for Africa” to help investment, education, training, business and jobs around the world’s poorest continent.
The summit has been convened after Austria and the Netherlands led complaints about increasing irregular arrivals.
The bloc’s border agency Frontex reported 330,000 irregular border crossings last year, the highest since 2016 as global mobility restarted following the COVID pandemic.
The number is still a far cry from 2015 when more than 1 million people crossed the Mediterranean, risking their lives in unsafe dinghies and overwhelming the bloc.
EU countries fought bitterly over how to provide for those coming, and migration has since been a highly sensitive issue.
Higher immigration numbers have now revived ideas seen as inadmissible for years, from EU financing for border fences to handling asylum requests in centres outside the continent.
Last December, Austria cited migration concerns in blocking Bulgaria and Romania from joining the Europe’s open travel zone called Schengen.
Meloni took her plan to EU capitals including Berlin ahead of the summit, though notably skipped Paris after locking horns with France over migration.
When they meet in Brussels, EU leaders will also discuss NGO search-and-rescue operations in the sea after Meloni already sought to limit such activity through a national decree.
The Italian paper said “not carefully coordinated activities might place an additional burden on coastal states” and proposed the creation of “European humanitarian corridors” to bring people into the EU in a safe and legal way.
EU countries remain bitterly divided over how to provide for those who win asylum.
Italy’s paper called for mandatory relocations, an idea under which each EU state needs to host some people to support countries of arrival like Italy and the most popular destination countries like Germany.
That is, however, anathema to EU members including Hungary and Poland where conservative governments promoting what they say are traditional Christian values refuse to host any of the new arrivals.
Poland has, however taken in several million Ukrainians since Russia invaded the EU neighbour a year ago this month.