Mr. Moderator, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to thank Adama Dieng and the Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, as well as all the other cosponsors, for organizing this timely and important event.
We are particularly proud to be here today because this event addresses two issues at the heart of Italian foreign policy: migration and the protection of populations.
These two topics are closely interlinked. On the one hand, failures by States to protect their populations from human rights violations and wars have provoked unprecedented flows of migrants and refugees worldwide. On the other hand, protecting populations –particularly women and children – in the Countries of arrival of displaced persons and persons fleeing conflict is not only a human rights issue: it is also a preventive security measure. What is more, and what compounds the difficulties in upholding our responsibility to protect, is the lack of access to safe and legal migration options, forcing many persons fleeing conflict to resort to the services of illegal facilitators, increasing their exposure to exploitation, including trafficking.
When we think about the vulnerabilities of migrants and refugees the first image that comes to mind is the unbearably sad picture of Alan Kurdi, the little boy who drowned in the Aegean Sea and whose body washed up on a Mediterranean shore. If this image strikes a deep chord in our soul, it is also because it places us squarely before our inability to address such despair. This image is a reminder of our failures.
We must step up our commitments to the most vulnerable migrants. And we must act now.
Italy’s response to this complex issue is multifaceted.
First, promoting a holistic approach. To our European partners we have put forward a Migration Compact, built on a strong, unwavering commitment to humanitarian principles – saving lives at sea (almost 350 thousand since 2014 – and more than 60 thousand desperate women, children and men so far this year) – and concrete, achievable goals to address the root causes of migration, by reorganizing the financial tools to revive the partnership with African countries of origin and transit of migrants. We also promoted a resettlement program (the humanitarian corridor project) aimed at saving at least the most vulnerable among migrants: I am thinking particularly of women and unaccompanied children. We should be able to keep them from having to embark on a dangerous journey across the desert or the sea, in the hands of smugglers. We hope that the Humanitarian Corridor project could be taken up, as a best practice, by other countries. Let’s give protection to refugees, but also let’s give hope to those who have lost it, to the weakest among migrants, like children, and like women who travel alone.
Second, strengthening the justice response, by ratifying and implementing instruments to combat human trafficking and protect the victims. Let me mention in particular the Palermo Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Additional Protocols, including those on the trafficking of migrants and the slave trade. I also wish to underscore the action of the relevant Italian Authorities in arresting, investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of the crime of trafficking.
Third, partnering with the civil society. I welcome that today’s event is inclusive and seeks to involve the private sector and civil society in managing the migration flow. Civil society has a pivotal role to play in protecting the vulnerable: we are not talking here about an international issue to be debated behind closed doors. We are talking about the daily lives of people, and how to better integrate them, give them choices, and change our societies for them and thanks to them. In Italy, faith-based organizations such as Caritas or the Community of Sant’Egidio have been among the first to provide help in emergencies, giving material, spiritual and moral support to refugees and migrants to cope with the challenges linked with their situations.
These examples drawn from the Italian experience show that we do have all the means to move forward. What is lacking, instead, is a stronger political and practical will to act.