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IOM Chief Calls for Cooperation Against Trafficking of Illegal Immigrants

The director-general of the International Organization for Migration says international cooperation is extremely important to combat trafficking of illegal migrants. Opening a two-day conference in Sicily on migration flows between Europe and Africa, he said the unscrupulous business of smuggling migrants can end, provided governments work together.

In opening remarks, IOM chief Brunson McKinley said people are on the move in the Mediterranean, and the prime motivation for migration is a better life.

McKinley was addressing delegates at a conference titled "Migration and Dignity." The two-day conference is being held in Pozzallo, on the southern coast of Sicily, where arrivals of migrants are common.

Delegations from five European Union nations are attending the meeting, as well as those from nine African countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Libya, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia.

McKinley said desperate people are willing to sacrifice their dignity and, sometimes, their lives. He added that countries of origin, transit and destination must work together, and international cooperation is of extreme importance. He explained what is required. "Begin to work out programs for regular migration," he said. "Begin to work on better cooperation among law enforcement and social ministries on the welcome of migrants, the integration of migrants and enforcement of mechanisms against smugglers and traffickers."

McKinley said there is the need to better organize the international labor market across the Mediterranean. He said access to labor markets is an effective antidote to underground arrivals, and also returns dignity to migrants.

He warned industrialized countries that the arrival of migrants would not solve all of their demographic, economic and social problems, but said migration is also important. "It can contribute because there are particular parts of European economies - especially the service sector, health care, childcare, elder care and other service sector occupations - where migrants can be very, very useful and are very welcome," he said.

McKinley also said it is important to keep in mind that much of the dramatic content of migration today also has to do with the cultural differences of the migrants and the countries they reach. He says the Mediterranean is a major fault line in the intersection between two great civilizations -- Muslim and Christian.

He said migrants take their culture and religion with them. McKinley said to ensure dignity to migrants, European nations must respect and understand their practices.