Marco Minitti, the Italian interior minister, has managed to decrease the number of African migrants and refugees arriving in the country from Libya in his eight months in the office. According to the latest statistics from August, the number has fallen by 87% – a controversial success that has gained appraisal on the right and notoriety on the left.
There are claims that the methods he is using to decrease the number of refugees are fragile and leave the fate of the tens of thousands of migrants unresolved and stuck in inhumane detention camps, but also unwilling to go back to their country of origin. Moreover, there are rumors that deals have been struck in the desert with the aim to induce tribes and militia to end the business of human trafficking. Mr. Minitti stoutly defends his methods as his country is facing an unprecedented influx of migrants. On one day in June, there were 12,500 arrivals in 25 vessels across the Mediterranean.
Mr. Minitti says that the crucial point for him was to go to Libya to find a solution. “In Turkey with its migrant crisis there was a strong leader with which to work – perhaps too strong. In Libya it was the opposite.” It was necessary to deal with a fatally divided national state that was trying to create an alternative set of state institutions. In February, Italy under his leadership signed a memorandum with the leader of the UN-recognized government, Fayez al-Serraj, introducing a new level of collaboration between both sides, including the provision of four patrol boats. “If we look at results, the Libyan coastguard has saved more than 13,000 people – figures that were absolutely unthinkable at the start of the year.”