Italy can 'hold its head high' on migrant treatment: PM

Rome (AFP) –


Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Tuesday that Italy could "hold its head high" with regards to its treatment of migrants, after Amnesty International accused Rome and other EU governments of being "knowingly complicit" in abuses of migrants in Libya.

"Finally, the spotlights have been turned to the human rights situation in Libya. This is to our credit," Gentiloni said in an address to senators and later to MPs before an EU summit in Brussels this week.

He said accords signed between Rome and authorities in Tripoli to stem the flow of migrants had allowed UN agencies to intervene in Libya, increasing the number of voluntary returns to home countries "from less than 3,000 last year to more than 15,000 today, and it could exceed 20,000 this year".

The number of new arrivals to Italy has fallen 30 percent this year and 69 percent over the past five months, Gentiloni added.

"Since July 1 that represents a decrease of 80,000 people compared with 2017, a result that would have been unthinkable to predict," he said.

As a result, Italy "can be proud of being the country that sets a good example for Europe, both in welcoming and saving lives at sea, and in inflicting serious, measurable and I hope long-lasting defeats on human traffickers."

In its report Tuesday, Amnesty warned of legal action against Rome and other EU governments over the European Union's policy of aiding the UN-backed government in Tripoli to stop migrants from travelling to Europe.

European governments are "actively supporting a sophisticated system of abuse and exploitation of refugees and migrants by the Libyan coastguard, detention authorities and smugglers in order to prevent people from crossing the Mediterranean," Amnesty said.

"The various EU governments, Italy in particular, know full well that this is going on," Amnesty's Europe Director John Dalhuisen told AFP in Brussels.