TAORMINA (Italy) • Italy chose to host a Group of Seven (G-7) summit of wealthy nations on a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean, looking to draw attention to the migrant crisis that has seen hundreds of thousands of people set sail from Africa in search of a better life in Europe.
But world leaders at the gathering said little that will help Italy manage the steady flow of migrants to its shores or enable it to cope with the growing number of new arrivals.
"Even though this summit took place in Sicily, a stone's throw from where so many migrants have died, it produced no concrete steps to protect vulnerable migrants or to address the root causes of displacement and migration," said Mr Roberto Barbieri, the local director of humanitarian group Oxfam.
Rome had hoped to persuade other major industrialised nations to open more legal channels for migration and to focus attention on food security - policies that were meant to lower the number of people who set off for Europe.
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But the plan was scrapped before the two-day summit even started, with the United States, Britain and Japan unwilling to commit to major new immigration initiatives.
The final communique outlined medium-term commitments to bolster African economies and promote sustainable agriculture, but it focused more on the need for each country to guarantee national security than on how to limit migration.
Countries "reaffirm the sovereign rights of states to control their own borders and set clear limits on net migration levels", said the communique.
More than 175,000 asylum seekers live in Italian shelters. With sea arrivals at a record pace this year, the issue is hotly debated by politicians facing a general election within a year.
About 10,000 migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya over the previous four days but at least 54 others died, Libyan and Italian officials said last Saturday.
More than 50,000 migrants have reached the Italian coast since the start of the year, not counting those rescued in recent days, while more than 1,400 have drowned or are missing, according to United Nations figures. Of the 181,000 migrants who entered Italy last year, some 90 per cent arrived via Libya.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE