The Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni confirmed that the Italian government would send in Niger its soldier to contrast migrants trafficking as agreed during the meeting with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron occurred in Paris.
Gentiloni explained that the Italian military mission in Niger is linked to the current situation in Iraq. Because the Islamic State has been defeated in Iraq and the city of Mosul was freed, Italy can use a part of its 1,400 soldiers based in the Middle Eastern country to contrast migrants trafficking in Niger.
Thanks to this strategy Italy will continue to play an active role in the Middle East through the reconstruction of Iraq and at the same time will protect its national interests contrasting the vast migrants’ flux from Africa. Furthermore, supporting the Iraqi and Niger governments, Italy might improve its relations with countries in the Middle East and Africa and build dialogue, friendship and peace in the Mediterranean Sea.
Niger and in general the Sahel region have been affecting by human trafficking and terrorism, two phenomena interconnected. As stated by Gentiloni, the active involvement of Italy in the area aims at defending the Italian national interests by contrasting terrorism and reducing the migration flown.
Since August 31, 2017, the Italian ITS Zeffiro has been assigned to EUNAVFOR MED Task Force for Operation Sophia asset whose purpose is to support local authorities in disaster relief, performing anti-terrorist operations, surveillance and interdiction of illicit trafficking, prevention and control of illegal immigration, and promoting peace support operations (peacemaking operations). Operation Sophia accomplished essential goals in the last months such as identify 130 traffickers and destroy 600 boats involved in illicit trafficks and save a large number of human lives.
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking near last on the United Nations Development Fund index of human development. The economy of this Sub-Saharan nation is principally based on agriculture and uranium deposits’ exploitation. Among the most severe challenges which Niger is facing, there are desertification, drought cycles, steady population growth, and human trafficking.
Niger is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Key figures in the human trafficking are the Nigerien marabouts (religious instructors) who organise illicit traffic of boys forced to work in Niger in gold mines, agriculture, and stone quarries, and girls sold as domestic servitude or in the sex trade.
Nigerien women and children are often transported to Nigeria, North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe where they work as domestic servitude, sex slaves or workers. The identity of the traffickers ranges from migrants who live in North Africa, women accused of managing trafficking rings, and individuals and marabouts involved in freelance operations. Due to its strategic position, Niger is a transit country for men, women, and children from West and Central Africa who desire to reach Europe from the North African ports.