NewsNorth AfricaEU leaders meet in Malta for roundtable talks on African migration


Posted on Friday, 03 February 2017 15:47

EU leaders meet in Malta for roundtable talks on African migration

By Reuters

Migrants and refugees wait to be helped by members of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, in the Mediterranean Sea about 21 miles north of Sabratha, Libya, on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. Photo: Emilio Morenatti/AP/SIPAItaly and the European Union (EU) have pledged to finance migrant camps in Libya run by the U.N.-backed government, an agreement showed on Friday, 3 February, as part of a wider European Union drive to stem immigration from Africa.


But the U.N. refugee agency said running camps where migrants and refugees are detained in Libya would mean forcing them to live in poor conditions and would put them further risk of abuse.

EU leaders met on Friday to give political backing to new efforts by the bloc to stop migrants before they board flimsy boats on the Libyan coast and set out across the Mediterranean for Europe.

In 2016, some 4,500 are estimated to have perished attempting to cross from North Africa to Italy.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was attending, despite her plan to start negotiations by next month to take the U.K. out of the EU - a reminder that Britain, along with France, is one of the bloc's main military powers and Africa aid donors, and that Brussels must go on cooperating with London long after Brexit.

An agreement with Turkey last year halted an influx of refugees that had brought a million migrants into Germany via Greece.

Resistance to taking people back

EU leaders acknowledge they cannot replicate with Libya the deal they made with Turkey to take back asylum-seekers.

That leaves the EU trying to bolster the shaky, U.N.-backed Tripoli government of Prime Minister Fayez Seraj, who was in Brussels and Rome on Thursday (February 2) to secure pledges of cash and help to train and bolster coastal and border forces.

As well as trying to disrupt smuggling gangs, the EU aims to deport more failed asylum seekers from Italy, using its cash to overcome resistance among African states to taking people back.

Deportations may never occur on a grand scale, but EU officials argue that a more visible risk of being deported may dissuade would-be migrants from setting out in the first place.

The European leaders will turn their attention after May leaves later in the day to how to shore up popular support for the EU.

They will hash out ideas for a declaration on the bloc's future when they mark its 60th anniversary in Rome in March.

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