BARI, Italy (NEWSnet/AP) — Leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations focused their attention on migration Friday, seeking ways to combat trafficking and increase investment in countries that migrants frequently depart.

The gathering, now in its second day at an Italian resort, is also discussing other topics: financial support for Ukraine, the war in Gaza, artificial intelligence, climate change, as well as China’s industrial policy and economic security.

Migration is of particular interest to Italy, which is often an entry point for migrants entering the European Union from locations in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni has been eager to increase investment and funding for African nations as a means of reducing migratory pressure on Europe.

Italy “wanted to dedicate ample space to another continent that is fundamental to the future of all of us, which is Africa, with its difficulties, its opportunities,” Meloni said at the summit opening Thursday.

“Linked to Africa, and not only to Africa, there is another fundamental issue that Italy has placed at the center of the presidency, which is the issue of migration, the increasingly worrying role that trafficking organizations are assuming, clearly exploiting the desperation of human beings,” she said.

More than 22,000 people have arrived in Italy by sea so far in 2024, according to UNHCR figures. In 2023, more than 157,000 arrived, and nearly 2,000 died or went missing while attempting the perilous Mediterranean crossing.

The United States has also been struggling with a growing number of migrants at its southern border. President Joe Biden introduced new policies to curb migration after a bill he tried to get through Congress failed to pass.

Tackling migration “is a common challenge,” European Council President Charles Michel said after arriving at the summit.

In addition to the G7 nations of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the U.S., the Italian hosts have also invited several African leaders — Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Kenyan President William Ruto and Tunisian President Kais Saied — to discuss Meloni’s migration and development initiatives.

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