EU leaders head to Malta for talks on African migration, European unity

By AT editor - 3 February 2017 at 5:11 am
EU leaders head to Malta for talks on African migration, European unity

The leaders of European Union (EU) member states will return to Malta on Friday to discuss strategies to control migration across the Mediterranean Sea.

“Our main goal for the Malta summit is to stem the flow of irregular migration from Libya to Europe. This is the only way to stop people dying in the deserts and at sea,” said EU President Donald Tusk, ahead of the Valletta meetings. “This is also the only way to gain control over migration in Europe.”

The two-part agenda will first focus on Libya and the Central Mediterranean migration route from Africa, affirming support for Libya’s Government of National Accord while establishing better controls with the Libyan authorities ahead of increased traffic expected in the spring.

“The situation there is different and even more complex than in the east, and we have to be innovative while drawing on the principles that have guided our action over the past months,” Tusk said in a letter to member states.

Among other things, the EU plans equipment and training for the Libyan coast guard, and additional cooperation with the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) agencies.

The two migrant and refugee agencies issued a joint statement Thursday calling on the EU “to address the tragic loss of life on the Central Mediterranean route and the deplorable conditions for migrants and refugees in Libya.”

The statement warned that Libya, under current conditions, cannot be considered a safe “third country,” nor is North Africa an appropriate location for processing asylum seekers outside of Europe’s borders.

The Malta discussion also will focus on the challenges of neighboring African countries that place pressure on Libya’s borders and other issues related to migration before turning to the future of the EU.

Tusk said he had spoken with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss European support for Mediterranean migrant policies.

“Europe should and will stand by Italy in sharing the responsibility,” Tusk said.

Image: Migrant Offshore Aid Station

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