Visiting Rome and Lampedusa, high-level OSCE PA delegation stresses need to support Italy’s migration efforts and combat human trafficking



080324 photo 0The OSCE PA delegation visits Lampedusa's Favaloro Pier, 7 March 2024LAMPEDUSA, 8 March 2024 – OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Pia Kauma (Finland) joined members of the OSCE PA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Migration, chaired by Vice-President Daniela De Ridder (Germany), and Special Representative on Combating Organized Crime Eugenio Zoffili (Italy) on an official visit to Rome and Lampedusa this week to witness first-hand the challenges faced by Italy in dealing with irregular migration.

With the Central Mediterranean route from Africa to Europe once again the most active – and deadliest – route for migrants entering the European Union irregularly, and with Lampedusa at the front line due to its proximity to North Africa, the OSCE PA delegation noted that Italy deserves continued support for managing the migration flows, and that the international community must do more to jointly address irregular migration as well as drivers of migration.

“Migration is a global phenomenon that requires a co-ordinated approach,” President Kauma said. “The efforts of Italy and the EU to address irregular arrivals seem to be bearing fruit, with numbers so far down by 70 per cent in 2024 compared to last year. We must continue to learn from this experience and to work together to ensure that we are better prepared to meet the challenges ahead. OSCE parliamentarians can furthermore contribute by ensuring that our legislative frameworks support sustainable migration governance.”

080324 photo 3Pia Kauma, Lorenzo Fontana and Eugenio Zoffili in Rome, 6 March 2024President Kauma’s participation underscored the significance of migration on the OSCE PA’s agenda and the importance that the PA attaches to the challenges faced by Italy, she stressed. in Rome, she held a bilateral meeting with Lorenzo Fontana, President of the Chamber of Deputies, in which the sides discussed a range of issues facing the OSCE area, including migration, as well as Italy’s support for the PA’s activities.

Ad Hoc Committee Chair De Ridder said that there must be closer co-operation with other frontline countries around the Mediterranean. “Offers of help are always about the dignity of the refugees and this is managed in an orderly fashion on Lampedusa,” De Ridder said. “Lampedusa is a place where tragedy and hope mix with a lot of potential. We often cannot understand the willingness to take risks of refugees who want to reach Europe by sea, but we must work more intensively on the causes of flight, especially conflict, poverty and climate change.”

One of the main focuses of the visit was understanding how organized criminal networks exploit mixed-migration flows to traffic human beings and smuggle migrants across borders. The delegation noted that criminal groups have increasingly used the Central Mediterranean route to boost their illegal operations. During their perilous journeys, many migrants and asylum seekers fall prey to unscrupulous trafficking rings, and are subsequently exploited for sexual or labor exploitation in countries of transit and destination.

080324 photo 2A Red Cross representative on the island of Lampedusa briefs Gudrun Kugler, Eugenio Zoffili and Daniela De Ridder, 7 March 2024Special Representative Zoffili, who serves as Head of Italy’s OSCE PA Delegation, said that it is important to keep a strong focus on the criminal element related to irregular migration. “Migrant smuggling and human trafficking are closely related, albeit different, crimes that exploit vulnerable people for financial gain,” said Zoffili. “The organized criminal networks that profit from these crimes are usually interlinked, and often they are also involved in other dangerous criminal operations, such as drugs and weapons trafficking. Combating these criminal cartels should be a top security priority for all of our countries. In this regard, there is much that can be learned from the Italian experience.”

In meetings with law enforcement and asylum policy officials in Rome, the OSCE PA delegation learned about the techniques that criminal networks use to evade detection, as well as the internal operations of these networks. They also heard how Italian border police authorities provide technical support to border police in Tunisia to improve their professional capacity to manage irregular sea migration and counter terrorism. Training activities also include a human rights component, the delegation heard.

Visiting Lampedusa, the delegation was briefed on the situation at the Air Force base and visited the Contrada Imbriacola ‘Hotspot’ managed by the Italian Red Cross where they met with a broad range of interlocutors including representatives of law enforcement agencies, Frontex, Europol, EU Asylum Agency and also representatives of UNHCR, IOM, and Save the Children.

Accounting for about 70 per cent of all arrivals on Italian soil in 2023, migrants arrive in Lampedusa on small boats from North Africa (Tunisia and Libya), committee members were told. Following an agreement reached with Tunisia, arrivals from Tunisia have gone down, with Libya again the main point of departure for the boats. The Mediterranean crossing continues to be the most treacherous route for migrants on record, with at least 3,129 deaths and disappearances. This is the highest death toll recorded in the Mediterranean since 2017.

080324 photo 1Committee members also visited Favaloro Pier, where about 11,000 asylum seekers arrived over a four-day period in mid-September 2023. Meeting with Guardia di Finanza and Coast Guard officials, committee members learned about the challenges posed when an enormous influx of migrants arrives over such a short period. The remoteness of this small island of 6,000 inhabitants which is closer to Africa than to Sicily and the rest of Italy is one of the main challenges.

Italy’s achievements in coping with the crisis was highlighted: migrants arriving in Lampedusa go through an efficient process, including health screenings, pre-identification and screening for vulnerabilities. The delegation also discussed lessons learned from agreements with third countries such as Libya, Tunisia and Albania, and whether there are sufficient human rights safeguards. The new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum, including accelerated border procedures as well as the proposed solidarity mechanism and their expected impact on vulnerable categories of migrants, notably unaccompanied minors, women and potential victims of trafficking, were also discussed.

In addition to President Kauma, Chair De Ridder and Special Representative Zoffili, members of the delegation included Ad Hoc Committee Vice-Chairs Kyriakos Hadjiyianni (Cyprus), Farah Karimi (Netherlands), and Gudrun Kugler (Austria), as well as committee members Alessandro Alfieri (Italy), Kristian Klinck (Germany), Malik Ben Achour (Belgium), Kemal Çelik (Türkiye), and Fabrizio Comba (Italy).

For more information on the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on Migration, please click here. More information on the work of the Special Representative on Combating Organized Crime is available here.

Photos of the visit to Rome and Lampedusa are available for public use on Flickr.

For a brief video with highlights of the visit, please click here.



Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

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