Sunday, June 23, 2024

India, Italy may finalize migration & mobility agreement

New Delhi: India and Italy are close to finalizing a migration and mobility partnership deal, according to persons aware of the matter, making it easier for Indian workers to travel to Italy.

The intent of the agreement is to ensure transparent and “clean” migration in order to reduce exploitation of migrants by touts and agents. This focus is likely driven by reports of Indian workers being trapped in exploitative conditions in Italy’s agricultural sector. The agreement is also expected to aid the fight against illegal migration.

Italy is home to around 200,000 Indians—the largest Indian diaspora in Europe after the UK—mostly working in the agricultural and dairy sectors.

Given that negotiations are progressing well, officials are hopeful of signing the agreement later this year. External affairs minister S. Jaishankar is expected to travel to Italy in November, according to the persons cited above, and may sign the agreement then.

Queries to the foreign ministries of India and Italy went unanswered at press time.

However, the persons cited above also said that disagreements over sharing the personal data of migrants have remained a sticking point in negotiations.

The absence of data privacy regulations in India has also made cooperation hard. Striking an agreement on personal data is likely to be crucial to completing a migration and mobility pact. New Delhi and Rome will have to exchange information about migrant workers in order to make the pact workable.

Further, combating illegal migration, which is a key focus of this agreement, is likely to be difficult without a mechanism to share migrant data.

According to persons aware of the negotiations, the agreement is likely to be limited, with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing government looking to tighten migration procedures.

Despite difficulties, the successful conclusion of this agreement may help both sides reboot their relationship. The relationship between India and Italy has been testy since 2012, when two Italian marines gunned down Indian fishermen inside India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

This incident escalated into a diplomatic crisis between New Delhi and Rome as both sides clashed over how and where the two Italian marines would be prosecuted. In the end, the matter was referred to an international arbitration court, which ruled that Italy would prosecute the two accused. However, the court also ordered Rome to pay New Delhi an amount as compensation.

While the bilateral relationship suffered due to the marines case, Italian officials have spoken publicly about a “reboot” in its relationship with New Delhi. Mint had earlier reported that both sides are also expected to sign a defence agreement in May this year. The proposed migration and mobility agreement is another step towards putting India-Italy ties back on the right track, according to persons aware of the negotiations.

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