Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni

Media source: Xinhua (China)

ROME  — Europe’s security and prosperity are at stake in Africa, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano told La Stampa newspaper Thursday.

Alfano wrote a letter from Senegal, the second leg of the minister’s three-stop mission that began in Niger on Jan. 3 and ends in Guinea on Jan. 5.

In Europe, Italy must be conscious that while countries are carrying out enormous investments there, “our destiny of security and prosperity is at stake in Africa,” he wrote.

Italy’s Africa policy “conjugates security with solidarity” and solidarity with development. The three are strategically conn ted because the only way to keep tens of thousands of people from fleeing their homelands and ending up as refugees and migrants in Italy is to provide them with better lives in their own countries, Alfano said.

In Niger, the minister on Wednesday opened Italy’s new embassy in the capital of Niamey and appointed an ambassador.

Niger lies at Libya’s southern border and is a key country of transit for refugees and migrants being smuggled towards Europe by human traffickers.

Italy has allocated 50 million euros (60 million U.S. dollars) to step up controls on the Niger-Libya border, causing “migratory flows to drop from 70,000 people in May 2016 to 4,000 in July 2017,” Alfano said.

Italy also earmarked 31 million euros to “improving the conditions of local populations” and another 15 million to voluntary repatriations and refugee resettlement programs run by the United Nations-affiliated International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In December, the government of center-left Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Italian peacekeeping troops should be shifted from Iraq to Niger to help fight human traffickers and Islamist extremists.

The lucrative human trafficking business is thought to be one of the main avenues of funding for terrorist groups, along with drugs, weapons, and oil smuggling.

“The Italian government has decided to deploy a training contingent to combat the threats of Islamic jihadism, organized crime, and illegal trafficking (in Niger),” Alfano wrote.

Alfano’s last stop is Guinea, a country of origin of many migrants trying to reach Europe, where he will appoint a new ambassador.