Turkey joins Italy-led ‘Rome Process’ to curb irregular migration

In this file photo, rescued refugees and migrants stand aboard a boat at the town of Paleochora, southwestern Crete island on November 22, 2022, following a rescue operation. Costas METAXAKIS / AFP

Turkey, along with 19 other countries from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, have initiated the “Rome Process,” aimed at curbing irregular migration and human trafficking, at the International Conference on Development and Migration, held in Rome and led by Italy’s far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Turkish Minute reported, citing the state-run Anadolu news agency.

The conference saw leaders and diplomats discuss solutions for tackling the root causes of forced displacement and preventing irregular migration in the broader Mediterranean region. Critics have expressed concern over Meloni’s involvement in the process, citing her controversial far-right stance on immigration issues.

Participants, including Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and various international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, pledged to work together with a shared and differentiated approach to address the challenges posed by irregular migration.

According to Anadolu, during the closed-door event Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan emphasized the importance of regional cooperation in tackling irregular migration, a common challenge faced by Mediterranean countries. Fidan stressed the need to eliminate conflicts and economic problems in order to halt the flow of migrants at its source. He also called for the equitable burden-sharing of irregular immigrants among all nations.

The Rome Process aims to address the socioeconomic development of countries of origin, focusing on fighting poverty, providing social protection, creating job opportunities and enhancing skills development through quality education. Efforts to improve asylum systems, migration management and collaboration for predictable and equitable burden-sharing were also among the key agenda items discussed during the conference.

Critics view Meloni, known for her far-right ideology, with skepticism regarding her role in the initiative. Many have raised concerns about her previous hard-line rhetoric on immigration and humanitarian rescue missions in the Mediterranean. Despite the efforts of the Meloni administration to crack down on humanitarian ships rescuing migrants, Italy continues to struggle with the influx of unauthorized migrants arriving in centers like Lampedusa.

The Rome Process comes in the wake of a deal signed between the European Union and Tunisia to address migrant arrivals from the Tunisian coast. Meloni and the European Commission have increased engagement with Tunisia, with Brussels promising funding to curb emigration from the country. However, NGOs have condemned these actions, expressing concern over the EU’s policies of isolation and complicity in abuses committed against migrants in other regions.

Turkey has emerged as the leading host country for refugees worldwide, sheltering nearly 3.6 million individuals seeking protection, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) global trends report.

Turkey’s significant role in providing for those in need has garnered recognition, but there is also increasing hostility towards refugees in the country, especially towards the largest group, Syrians, fueled by political rhetoric and the social and economic challenges it faces.

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