Italy is going to deploy up to 470 troops in Niger to combat migration and the trafficking of people toward Europe. At the end of 2017, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said he would increase military presence in North Africa, requiring parliament to reconvene to give its consent, despite having already closed ahead of the 4 March parliamentary election.
Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia – or Go Italy! – Party, which is in opposition, supported the resolution while the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement did not support it, saying that the deployment would prevent the winner of the election from setting their own foreign policy goals. Italy is planning to spend 1.5 billion euros on 31 missions in 21 countries. Only a portion of the funding was approved in the budget for this year and more money will need to be designated by the end of September.
Italy’s focus on Africa comes as Italy is seeking to stop migrants from reaching its shores. More than 600,000 people have entered the country in the past four years. The Niger mission was announced at the end of last year as Italy joined the United States and France, which already have military presence in the country. Prime Minister Gentiloni said the mission would “guarantee stability in the area and fight illegal trafficking of migrants”. There are also more military deployments in Libya and Tunisia. Some 400 soldiers are expected to work in Libya, up from 370, and Rome is going to send 60 troops to Tunisia as well to improve border control and help fight against terrorism.