The ambitious initiative launched by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to address the root causes of migration from Africa to Europe has been widely criticized as ineffective, unrealistic and counterproductive.
The Rome Process, which aimed to create a fund to finance development projects and support border controls in African countries, has failed to deliver on its promises and has provoked resentment from both European and African partners.
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According to a recent report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of migrants and refugees arriving in Europe via the Mediterranean Sea has increased by 35% in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022, reaching over 100,000 arrivals. The majority of them departed from Libya, Tunisia and Algeria, countries that were supposed to benefit from the Rome Process. The report also highlighted the worsening humanitarian situation of migrants and refugees in transit and destination countries, where they face abuse, exploitation, violence and discrimination.
The Rome Process, which was announced by Meloni in July 2022 at a summit in Rome attended by representatives from more than 20 countries, has been plagued by a lack of funding, coordination and transparency. Despite Meloni’s claim that the initiative would last for several years, no donors’ conference has been organized so far and only the United Arab Emirates has pledged $100 million to the fund.
The European Union, which was initially supportive of the Rome Process, has expressed its frustration with the lack of consultation and cooperation from the Italian government. The EU has also accused Italy of violating the principle of solidarity and responsibility-sharing among member states by refusing to relocate migrants and refugees from its overcrowded reception centers.
On the other hand, many African countries have rejected the Rome Process as a neo-colonial attempt to impose external solutions on their internal problems. They have also denounced the Italian government’s anti-immigration stance and its support for militias and warlords in Libya who are accused of committing human rights violations against migrants and refugees. Some African leaders have even threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Italy and boycott its products and investments.
The failure of the Rome Process has damaged Meloni’s reputation both at home and abroad. Her popularity ratings have plummeted as she faces growing criticism from the opposition, the media and civil society for her handling of the migration crisis. Her coalition partners, the League and Forza Italia, have also distanced themselves from her policies and have called for a change of course. Meloni’s far-right agenda has also alienated many of Italy’s allies in NATO and the European Union, who fear that her government could undermine the stability and security of the region.