The European Commission said that the bloc couldn’t replicate the EU’s agreement with Turkey on migration when it comes to dealing with migration flows from Libya. The idea had been suggested by the Maltese Prime Ministr Joseph Muscat, whose country took over the EU’s presidency at the beginning of this year. The EU last March agreed with Ankara to stop migrants and refugees from moving to the continent in return for billions in development and humanitarian aid as well as some political perks like the coveted visa-free travel.
EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos explained that Libya was simply too unstable. “Let me tell you that we cannot duplicate the EU-Turkey statement, the situation is not similar in Libya,” he said. The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said that instead of the proposed deal, the EU would boost EU training for the Libyan coastguard, which she described as absolutely crucial. “The losses of lives we see are more and more in territorial waters of Libya. And so it is a Libyan responsibility to prevent these losses of lives and to dismantle the trafficker’s networks, on the Libyan coast and in the Libyan waters,” Mrs. Mogherini commented.
The Commission’s plan also focuses on strengthening the Libyan borders with neighboring countries such as Chad and Niger, and helping the United Nations refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration. Malta will host EU leaders, including Britain’s Theresa May, to a summit next week with the aim to take urgent action to counter and decrease hazardous sea crossings from North Africa to Italy. The number of people trying to cross the Mediterranean sea and reach Italy has been on the rise, going up to 181,000 arrivals in 2016, up from 154,000 out of which 90% embark from Libya. The death toll has also been at a new record – more than 5,000 lives were lost in the Mediterranean in 2016.