Italy, Tunisia agree to combat migrant trafficking

Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano and his Tunisian counterpart Khemaies Jhinaoui signed a joint declaration to fight migrant traffickers in the Mediterranean.

“We are working together to block human traffickers on the central Mediterranean route,” Alfano told reporters after the Rome signing.

Italy and Libya on Wednesday signed an agreement to curb illegal migration along the same route.

EU leaders then agreed to step up assistance to Libya’s coastguard as part of a 10-point programme to halt migration.

Italy is a key entry point for migrants and asylum seekers striving to reach Europe, because its southernmost islands are often the first European landfall for vessels setting off from North Africa.

Over half a million migrants reached the coasts of Italy in 2014-16, more than the total number of people who came illegally by boat in the 17 previous years, according to a report on Tuesday by the Initiatives and Studies on Multi-ethnicity (ISMU) Foundation, a Milan-based think tank.

2016 marked a new record for Italy as asylum applications reached a 20-year high, ISMU said.