Modern piracy: Italy involved in its contrast with a focus on preventing human trafficking

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NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 5 – Modern piracy in all its forms is a serious threat to international security. International maritime crime is becoming “increasingly sophisticated” as criminal groups exploit jurisdiction and enforcement challenges on the high seas and pose “immediate danger to people’s lives and safety”, the UN anti-drugs and crime chief Yuri Fedotov warned the Security Council on Tuesday. “International and regional cooperation are indispensable to tackle this scourge in all its multiple dimensions, including trafficking of persons, weapons, drugs and cultural artifacts”, Ambassador Stefano Stefanile, Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, told the Open Debate on “Transnational organized crime at sea as a threat to international peace and security”.

““Two-thirds of the world’s surface is ocean. Nearly all of that is beyond any State’s territorial waters and largely not subject to a single state criminal jurisdiction,”  Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said as he briefed the Council’s first-ever debate targeting the global challenge of transnational maritime crime.

“Maritime security is a priority interest of Italy and we are deeply involved in fostering security and supporting the development of related capabilities of partner Countries, particularly in Africa”, Stefanile said. All countries should work together, at the bilateral and multilateral level, with a view to disrupt criminal networks which take advantage of migrants; promote development and capacity building in countries of departure and transit; address the root causes, thus preventing the smuggling of migrants and the trafficking of persons at sea; and create sustainable mechanisms that ensure a much needed shared responsibility among countries receiving migrants.

Through its “Africa Fund”, from which considerable resources were used to assist African countries in dealing with migration flows, Italy has done just that, said Stefanile. The Italian approach is three- pronged approach: 1) financing the work of international organizations, such as IOM and UNHCR, in transit countries, in order to improve the migrants’ conditions; 2) cooperating with countries of departure and transit to build the institutional capacities needed to disrupt criminal networks and provide assistance to migrants; 3) increasing development cooperation activities in countries of departure and transit, so that the root causes of migration can be effectively addressed.

Beyond that, at the multilateral level, Italy continues to lead operation EU-NAV-FOR MED “Sophia” in the Mediterranean and is one of the largest contributors to the European Union Trust Fund for Africa. Italy is also actively involved in important counterpiracy operations: in the Horn of Africa, with operation EU-NAV-FOR “Atalanta” since its inception, continuously providing one or two naval assets, including the flagship; and in the Gulf of Guinea, with an Italian Navy ship and new capacity building and cooperation programs with national authorities from within the region. For his part, Simeon Oyono Esono Angue, Foreign Minister of Equatorial Guinea, which presides over the Council for the month of February, pointed out that in the last decade, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea accounted for 30 per cent of attacks in African waters. “What is happening in the Gulf of Guinea is important for all of us here”, he said.

Comprised of countries from Liberia to Angola, the Gulf of Guinea area encompasses a 6,000 km coastline, which Florentina Adenike Ukonga, Executive Secretary of the  Gulf of Guinea Commission called “a wide expanse of water that no country in the region can successfully patrol”. (@OnuItalia)