To the kind attention of the Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, of the President of the Chamber of Deputies, his excellency Lorenzo Fontana, and of the President of the Senate, his excellency Ignazio La Russa, 

Ahead of the upcoming International MENA and Migration Conference on July 23, 2023, which will bring together diplomatic delegations from several Southern Mediterranean countries, we are writing to you to ask you to consider the implications of pursuing migration-related strategic partnerships with authoritarian and unaccountable governments, including Egypt and Tunisia, and with Libya,  where crimes against humanity are committed against migrants and refugees. As civil society organizations we are profoundly concerned for the human rights consequences which the newly signed or upcoming partnerships on border management between the EU and undemocratic governments could unleash. Likewise, we are concerned to see Italy persist in the stipulation of opaque bilateral agreements, often without any parliamentary control or review, and without any guarantees of transparency. 

This reflects a preoccupying trend established in recent years as the EU, led by Italy, actively pursues strategic deals with authoritarian governments which have proven their capacity to unleash brutally repressive responses to peaceful dissent, and to perpetrate human rights violations against migrants and asylum seekers to prevent them from trying to cross their borders and reach Europe. 

After seizing power, al Sisi has been ruling Egypt since 2014, and over that period his government has entrenched a set of  abusive laws and repressive practices which plunged the country into the worst human rights crisis in its modern history. Attacks on civil society and nonviolent opponents led to the disintegration of the civic sphere, while arbitrary detentions, torture, and enforced disappearance of dissidents became routine practices. Well documented extrajudicial killings were carried out by security forces with complete impunity.

In 2021, the Egyptian government launched its National Human Rights Strategy, which despite appearances has been denounced by international and regional human rights organizations as a makeover operation aimed at winning back the support of Egypt’s international allies. Almost two years since the Strategy was first launched, we are still seeing arbitrary arrests against Egyptian journalists, researchers, activists, members of trade unions, and NGO workers. The National Dialogue launched by al Sisi’s government alongside the National Human Rights Strategy, formally meant to open a space for dialogue between the state and “all Egyptians”, including civil society, proved to be another smokescreen when members of opposition parties were arrested while taking part in it, and several civil society groups announced a boycott in sign of protest. The EU Parliament itself recognized the lack of substantial improvements since the launch of the National Dialogue in its resolution of November 24, 2022.

According to Human Rights Watch, Egyptian authorities attempt to mislead their international partners through a politics of piecemeal releases of high-profile political detainees, in an apparent effort to appease international indignation ahead of the negotiation of key bilateral deals. 

Egypt also has a concerning record of severe human rights violations against migrants and refugees, including unlawful deportations without assessing asylum claims, police abuse, medical neglect in detention facilities, and failure to protect the refugee population from pervasive sexual violence. The eagerness of Italy and of the EU as a whole to pursue a migration deal with al Sisi despite this preoccupying evidence would indicate a lack of attentiveness to protecting the fundamental rights of migrants and refugees, contravening your obligations to human rights protection under international law.

Despite the mounting evidence of the deterioration of human rights, and the wave of indignation sparked after the kidnapping and murder of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni in 2016, Italy has worked relentlessly to strengthen cooperation with Egypt in key defense and commercial sectors, including police cooperation and cooperation on border control, arms sales, and energy deals. Over the past decade, Italian authorities have provided the Egyptian security apparatuses under the Ministry of the Interior with significant resources in the form of training and exchange know-how, armaments and surveillance technology, de facto reinforcing their capacity for internal repression. This suggests that  Italy has a role in Egypt’s human rights crisis, and it directs public spending allocated for cooperation activities into the hands of an insolvent government whose failed economic policy and mismanagement of international loans threatens internal and regional stability. 

We are alarmed by the fact that despite Egypt having been ranked as at high risk of default, and while its 100 million population faces acute poverty pushing tens of thousands to seek to reach Europe via sea, the EU persists against all evidence in treating al Sisi as a credible strategic partner, capable of ensuring stability and peace in the region. 

In fact, the repression of civic dissent has facilitated the diversion of public spending and of international loans and funding in the hands of a clique of high-rank state security officials close to al Sisi himself, as the German Institute for international & Security Affairs recently pointed out, saying that Egypt’s repression of dissent facilitates the instrumentalization of debt policy for power politics and it prevents any democratic or citizen control of public spending, while the lack of transparency makes it nearly impossible for international donors to monitor economic reforms.

However, Egypt will not be the only North African country with a catastrophic human rights record at the conference: a Tunisian delegation is also expected. On July 16, an EU delegation to which you, Prime Minister Meloni, were part of, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Tunisian president Kais Saied. Saied has imposed his authoritarian rule over Tunisia after seizing power- including dissolving the Parliament, and launching a crackdown on civil society and dissidents. The recent MoU signed by the EU and Tunisia violates the rights to freedom of movement and to seek asylum, and it endangers the life and safety of migrant people by treating Tunisia as a “safe country”. This is particularly evident in light of the well documented abuses perpetrated against Black African migrants by Tunisian authorities, including arbitrary arrests and detentions and collective pushbacks, in the context of generalized discrimination and of an excessive use of force. Between July 2 and 6, Tunisian national guard and military expelled hundreds  of people (including children and asylum seekers registered as such at the UNHCR) of Central and Western-African origin towards Libya and Algeria, after subjecting them to severe maltreatments.

The principle of conditionality applied to migration and visa policy has progressively become a pillar of the EU’s border strategy, binding partner countries to act as migratory hubs in exchange for more favorable visa policies or development aid. However, as human rights organizations denounced on multiple occasions, conditionality represents a flawed model of cooperation because it goes against the EU’s own commitments to human rights protection, and it decreases the transparency and accountability of development assistance.

Conditionality and  the process of externalization of European borders infringe upon human rights to freedom of movement and the right to seek asylum, creating gray areas in which unaccountable and abusive policing and detention practices are perpetrated against migrants and refugees.

We call on you, Prime Minister Meloni, to go back on the choice of pursuing migration-related strategic partnerships with authoritarian governments, including Egypt, as such agreements reinforce their legitimacy and provide them with resources for internal repression. We reiterate our call for a profound review of bilateral relations with al Sisi’s Egypt, Saied’s Tunisia, as well as with Libya, Turkey, and other partners in the Mediterranean region where the human rights of migrants and refugees are not guaranteed, ending the EU’s complicity in human rights abuses perpetrated in these countries. 

We invite you, Prime Minister Meloni, on the occasion of the International MENA and Migration Conference of July 23, 2023:

  • to mainstream human rights concerns in all bilateral talks with Italy’s partners in the Mediterranean region, and to subordinate the provision of resources that may be employed in internal repression, including resources for border patrolling and migration management, armaments and surveillance technology, to adequate guarantees of accountability and respect for human rights;
  • to ensure that migration agreements with partner countries do not provide blanket support for authoritarian governments, and that they are conditioned by guarantees of human rights due diligence so to not infringe upon the fundamental rights to life, freedom of movement, and the right to seek asylum;
  • to urge Egyptian authorities to take concrete steps to reopen the civic sphere and end the criminalization of nonviolent dissent, and to adopt all the necessary measures to alleviate the widespread poverty fueled by the economic crisis;
  • to review the nature of bilateral relations with Egypt in light of its catastrophic human rights record and deeply unstable internal situation;
  • to review the MoU of July 16, 2023, and to subordinate any cooperation activities with Tunisia to the immediate cessation of the use of violence and arbitrary detention against migrants and refugees;
  • to review the cooperation agreement with Libya, and halt any provision of support to the so-called Libyan Coastal Guards and with Libyan authorities in light of their involvement in crimes against humanity.

We call on the Italian Parliament to act towards the Government in the performance of its duties of democratic control over cooperation agreement and public spending allocated for the management of migration flows, ensuring the compatibility of such cooperation programmes and of their related activities with Italy’s obligations under human rights and humanitarian law.


  1. EgyptWide for Human Rights
  2. FIDH - international federation for human rights
  3. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
  4. NEW hope for poor
  5. Egyptian Human Rights Forum (EHRF)
  6. Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)
  7. A Buon Diritto Onlus
  8. The Freedom Initiative
  9. Committee for Justice
  10. HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement
  11. Andalus Institute For Tolerance And Anti Violence Studies
  12. Stop Wapenhandel
  13. Vredesactie
  14. Osservatorio Permanente sulle Armi Leggere (OPAL)
  15. StationToStation 2 agosto
  16. Un Ponte Per
  17. Citizens International
  18. AOI - Associazione Ong Italiane
  19. Amnesty International Italia
  20. Movimento Italiani Senza Cittadinanza 
  21. ANKH
  22. International Network of Liberal Women
  23. SIMM (Società Italiana Medicina delle Migrazioni)
  24. ARCI (Associazione Ricreativa E Culturale Italiana)
  25. Human Rights Watch (HRW)
  26. West African Human Rights Defenders' Network
  27. The Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights  FTDES