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Italy to send troops to Niger to tackle people trafficking

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Italy to send troops to Niger to tackle people trafficking
Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti pictured at the Senate. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
09:07 CET+01:00
Italy's parliament on Wednesday approved a ramped up military presence in Niger by agreeing to send an initial 120 troops with 350 more to follow as Rome looks to stem migration and people trafficking of African migrants.

"This is a training mission in response to a request from Niger, not a combat mission," said Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti, elaborating on comments Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni made on the issue last month.

"We are going to Niger following a request from the local government received in early December concerning an Italian contribution to do what we normally do in these countries, such as Libya, for example. That is, reinforce instruments of territorial and border control and reinforce local police forces," Gentiloni said in December.

Gentiloni said then that Niger is "the main transit country" for tens of thousands of people arriving in Libya, the launchpad for many Europe-bound African migrants, from where they attempt dangerous sea crossings to Europe.

Last year, some 115,000 landed in Italy, a figure down 32 percent year on year, taking arrivals since 2014 to around 600,000.

Gentiloni insisted last month his country could "hold its head high" over its treatment of migrants, after rights group Amnesty International accused Rome and other EU governments of being "knowingly complicit" in abuses of migrants in Libya.

READ ALSO: Italian politician sparks row over claims migration threatens 'white race'

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