Valletta: EU leaders will try to talk over Libya’s migration route issues. 

EPA / STEPHANIE LECOCQ

Prime Minister of Libya Fayez al-Sarraj (L) is welcomed by the President of the European Council Donald Tusk (R) ahead of a meeting at EU Council in Brussels, Belgium, 02 February 2017.

Tusk: “Now it is time to close down the route from Libya to Italy I can assure you it is within our reach”


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During the Malta Informal Summit 2017 on Feb. 3, the EU will attempt to settle escalating issues such as the pile-up of sub-Saharan migrants on the Libyan coast who are struggling to secure a pass to Europe.

On Thursday, one day before the summit in Valletta, Libya’s UN-backed leader Fayez al-Sarraj came to Brussels, to meet with the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, High Representative / Vice-President Federica Mogherini, and the co-chair of Friday’s informal European Council, Donald Tusk. 

Tusk said he would propose extra “concrete and operational measures” to curb migrant flows during the Malta summit.

According to an EU official, the EU heads of State will discuss methods on blocking migrants from entering the European Union, rather than on establishing an alternate and legal migration pathway.

An internal memo from the German foreign ministry on the torture and execution of migrants at detention camps in Libya was leaked on Jan. 31. These accounts concur with the December 2016 report from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN mission in Libya, which documented the widespread malnutrition, forced labour, illness, beatings, sexual abuse, torture and other abuses at Libyan immigration detention centres.

The “Australian model” is on the table

EU has to choose whether a EU-Turkey deal or a “Australian model” is the best approach towards irregular migration in situ. The European Council calls such an approach the “external dimension of migration.”

The Libyan government has failed to stem the migration flow by tackling smugglers who use the key Central Mediterranean route. Austria has accordingly advanced its “Austrian model,” which promotes the use of offshore processing centres. This scenario relies on the “safe third country” approach utilized by the EU-Turkey migration scheme.

The situation now is a very different one, and requires a different approach than the EU-Turkey agreement. The Turkey agreement covered Syrian nationals and asylum seekers that arrived in Greece through the Turkish coast. The vast majority of migrants from Libya are sub-Saharan Africans that have been deemed illegal economic migrants who face voluntary or involuntary expulsion,

The EU has proved that it is able to close migration routes. According to President Tusk, the EU could effectively shut the eastern Mediterranean route, as it did with Turkey.

“Now it is time to close down the route from Libya to Italy,” Tusk said on Thursday. “I can assure you it is within our reach. What we need is the full determination to do that.”

“We have a shared interest and determination to reduce the number of irregular migrants risking their lives crossing the central Mediterranean,” Tusk stressed, deeming the situation not sustainable. “As the smugglers let people drown and undermine the authority of the Libyan state for their own profit.”

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