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Published On: Tue, Feb 7th, 2017

EU blocks refugees from Libya, somehow Trump is attacked

During European Union’s latest summit in Malta on Friday to debate and discuss migration into Europe from the sub-Saharan Africa through Libya and across the Mediterranean, President Trump’s new immigration plans for America dominated the tone.

François Hollande, the French president, called his American counterpart’s comments earlier this month denigrating the EU “unacceptable.”

Federica Mogherini, the union’s foreign policy chief, said “we do not believe in bans and walls”, a slap at President Trump’s executive order on refugees and his plans for a wall on America’s Mexican border.

 

Image/CIA

Contrary to this tone is the EU’s new plans, a deal with Turkey which started in March 2016, to crack down on people-smuggling in the Aegean sea and now halt the migrants from Libya.

Some 180,000 arrived in Italy last year, with more than 4,000 dead or missing on the crossing.

Many of them are economic migrants, not refugees. The largest proportion came from Nigeria, which has very low asylum acceptance rates. Most experienced extreme hardship on the route: reports of beatings, rapes and torture in Libya are common.

Paolo Gentiloni, the Italian prime minister, signed a deal with Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA), the UN-backed Libyan government. Italy will provide money to try to persuade the GNA to stop smugglers sending thousands of people out on flimsy boats.
The EU backed the deal at the summit, providing an additional €200m ($216m) to an EU fund for Africa (already worth €1.8bn), and confirming plans to train up the Libyan coast guard.
Transit countries, such as Niger and Mali, have also been targeted with promises of cash and international help (particularly from Germany).
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, does not want to keep out genuine refugees: “This is not about who has the right to claim asylum.”
Merkel said it was about destroying the smugglers’ business model.
Libya today is close to lawless: the GNA has limited control outside of Tripoli, the capital, while the coast is ruled by competing militias.
The EU is mulling getting neighbouring countries, such as Tunisia or Egypt, involved, but the plans are vague.

The Italy-Libya deal calls for establishing “reception centres”, but does not explain what they would be, says Federico Soda of the IOM.

Detention centres, run by different militias and other groups, already exist all over Libya. Most provide miserable accommodations to those who are stuck in them, almost always against their will.

The Italian government has been complaining to the EU about the failure to tackle African migration for decades.

Syrian refugees in Hungary
photo/ Mstyslav Chernov – Wikimedia Commons

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