|4thMeeting of ASEM Foreign Ministers Madrid 6-7 June 2002|
Migration is, without any doubt, one of the fundamental issues of this century: it is a great opportunity for common prosperity and, at the same time, if not properly managed it could become one of the new security risks of our time.
There has always been a justified hope among European opinion makers and political leaders that the first view should prevail over the second: that immigration should be perceived not as a risk but, rather, as an asset.
There is no doubt that after September 11 the climate has changed. Governments are reassessing their procedures for screening travellers, measures against illegal migration are becoming tougher, the fight against trafficking in human beings is being intensified. But the underlying circumstances will, in the long term, remain the same: strong economies will need continuous immigration and weak economies will fill the gap.
One hundred and fifty million human beings throughout the world can today be defined as migrants. Of these, 20 million reside in the European Union. This figure is bound to rise as the world population increases and the economic gap widens. In the past 50 years the world’s population has risen from 2.5 billion to 6.1 billion, with 85.6% living in the developing countries. No wonder migratory pressures are so high.
The driving force that each year spurs hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes to seek a better life elsewhere cannot be ignored.
Common knowledge recognises that no country has an unlimited capacity to take in migrants. We therefore need to take careful steps to regulate migratory flows, so that we can guarantee all immigrants a job, a home and the possibility of finding a dignified dimension within the social fabric of their host country. In this perspective, there is no room for illegal immigration. This latter condemns immigrants to a non-life made up of insecurity, a precarious existence, and the absence of rights. It also feeds the fears of public opinion in the host countries, and gives rise to phenomena of intolerance and xenophobia. Finally, it swells the ranks of unscrupulous criminal organisations, who profit from the misery of the weakest by bringing them into the destination countries illegally, very often in extremely dangerous conditions that subject them to great physical and personal risk.
The Italian Government is fully aware of the urgency to address these problems.
For this reason, it has presented a bill in Parliament to reform the legislation governing immigration, to bring it into line with the changing nature of the phenomenon.
The guiding principle of the provision is that of justifying foreigners’ entry and stay in Italy only in cases where they actually have a job there, whether temporary or permanent. Foreigners who enter Italy legally must be provided with suitable working and living conditions (which have to be guaranteed by their employer).
At the same time, the bill introduces strict measures to combat illegal immigration and the trafficking in human beings. It goes as far as envisaging imprisonment for employers who exploit illegal immigrants.
The countries of the Asian area have amply demonstrated their awareness of migratory issues, as shown by the recent Conference in Bali on the trafficking of human beings (27-28 February of this year). One of the most significant aspects of this Conference was the fact that for the first time the problems involved in illegal immigration and the trafficking in human beings are being tackled in Asia at the regional level. This is an absolutely vital element to our approach because, as the European experience shows, any effective action to combat these phenomena must necessarily involve cooperation between states that have strong geographical and economic ties.
Within the ASEM framework, migratory issues, which play an important part in relations between the countries of Europe and Asia, have been subjected to particularly close attention.
During the Lanzarote Ministerial Conference on 4 and 5 April, the partners agreed on the need for cooperation in order to manage the migratory flows between Europe and Asia in accordance with the principles of mutual interest, equality and reciprocal respect. On the basis of this set of shared assumptions, we have been able to lay the foundations for future cooperation that envisages a series of initiatives such as the sharing of information on migratory flows, and especially on the routes followed and networks used for trafficking in human beings and for clandestine immigration; the creation of a network of contact points, with the task of coordinating meetings on this subject within the ASEM framework; collaboration on the issues of repatriation and re-admission, with full respect for the rights of the person and the dignity of the individual; and the promotion of actions to foster the social integration of legal migrants and combat racism and discrimination.
Within the framework of the cluster on Transnational and Law Enforcement-Related Matters, in September 2001 China and Italy jointly organised a Symposium on Law Enforcement Organs: Co-operation in Combating Transnational Crime. The aim of this initiative was to strengthen cooperation between the ASEM partners in combating the most serious forms of transnational crime, including trafficking in human beings. In the wake of this initiative contacts between the police forces in Italy and China have been placed on a more formal institutional footing, with an Italian liaison officer being posted to the Chinese Ministry of the Interior and Chinese police officials to our own country. The effort and commitment Italy put into the organisation of this joint Symposium are a sign of the importance we attribute to migratory issues in general and, more specifically, to measures to combat illegal immigration.
I wish to underline the fact that governments today are facing a new challenge: that of reconciling their own security requirements with the pressure exerted by the peoples of the developing world and the needs of the economy, and the need for greater flexibility that these imply.
In conclusion, a solution does exist, although not necessarily one that can easily be implemented: a system for managing migratory flows that sees the participation of both the destination countries and the immigrants’ countries of origin, in order to instil a greater sense of responsibility in all the parties involved in the phenomenon of migration. Without the commitment of the countries of origin we cannot even begin to put a halt to illegal immigration.
Italy has been pursuing these policies for several years now, with a fair degree of success. Our good relations with those of our neighbours who are experiencing strong migratory flows, and are now co-operating actively with us in combating illegal immigration, testify to this. I am convinced that this is the road we must take with other Countries too, wherever strong migratory pressures exist.