My dear friend Paolo,
Allow me to start by saying “mille grazie” to our Italian hosts for gathering all of us here in Rome to this really important conference. During your EU Council Presidency, you have quite rightly put migration and refugee policy at the heart also of the EU’s foreign policy agenda. I would also like to congratulate the African countries and the African Union Commission, which are showing such great commitment to the Khartoum Process.
Civil wars, expulsion, a lack of economic prospects and human rights violations are forcing increasing numbers of people to leave their homes in the wider European neighbourhood. Driven by the hope for personal safety and a better future, they embark on dangerous odysseys, often through multiple countries and across the sea. Many refugees suffer hardship and exploitation on their long transit towards Europe.
As Europeans, we must not limit our reaction to this situation to emergency measures on our borders. Long‑term solutions to the current refugee crises and migrant flows can only be found together with the countries of origin and transit. Migration and refugee policy in a spirit of partnership is therefore a central field in which precautionary foreign policy must prove itself.
Alongside the Middle East, East Africa is currently the most important region of origin of refugees attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea. This is why our cooperation in the Khartoum Process is so important.
I welcome the fact that we have agreed to pay special attention to fighting human trafficking and people‑smuggling along the eastern African migration route. All too often, refugees dependent on irregular migration routes become victims of those who promised to help them. We have realised that the fight against human traffickers and people‑smugglers affects us all and can only be tackled through cooperative efforts across borders and regions.
Germany will step up its commitment to the Horn of Africa as part of the Khartoum Process. Since 2013, we have invested some three million euros to help provide better protection for migrants and refugees along the routes in the region together with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration. We have trained border guards so that they are better able to identify human traffickers and their victims and to react accordingly. We have helped to improve protection measures in and around refugee camps and facilitate the psychosocial care for the victims. I welcome the fact that these measures have already helped to mitigate the situation considerably.
But we also want to help those countries who are taking in refugees under great strain to offer them protection and prospects. This approach was reflected by the Syrian Refugee Conference held in Berlin in October, at which we affirmed our commitment to taking responsibility for the Syrian refugees and their host countries.
Foreign policy can and must play its part in rising to the challenges of international refugee and migrant flows. Italy and Germany consider today’s conference to be the first step in our joint long‑term commitment to the countries in the Horn of Africa. We will work together closely with all of the countries involved in the Khartoum Process, as well as with the European Union and the African Union. Only when migration topics are an integral part of European foreign policy will we be able to make an effective contribution to coping with migration crises.