Back
Register for SMS Alerts
or enter your details manually below...
First Name:
Last Name:
Email:
Password:
Hometown:
Birthday:
Sorry, we couldn't find that email.
Existing users
Email
Password
Sorry, we couldn't find those details.
Enter Email
Sorry, we couldn't find that email.

EU rejects proposals for Turkey-style migration deal for Libya

The European Commission has opposed a proposal by Malta to replicate the Ankara deal to reduce crossings from Libya to Italy, which resulted in 5,000 deaths in 2016

26 January 2017, 8:03am
The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, outlined her opposition to the suggestions as she set out plans to boost EU training for the Libyan coastguard (File photo)
The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, outlined her opposition to the suggestions as she set out plans to boost EU training for the Libyan coastguard (File photo)
The European Commission has rejected proposals to offer Libya a deal similar to the EU’s agreement with Turkey on migration, revealing divisions over how to respond to the record death toll in the central Mediterranean.

The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, outlined her opposition to the suggestions as she set out plans to boost EU training for the Libyan coastguard, arguing that the situations were “completely different”.

“The two situations are completely different, the two countries, the two main countries are completely different, the composition of the [migrant] flow is completely different, and the set of measures are completely different. So there is no comparison that can be done,” Mogherini said.

The proposal was made last week by Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who called for the Turkey deal to be replicated in the central Mediterranean in order to minimise the flow of illegal migration from Libya.

The Commission’s stance is a setback for the Muscat, whose island state took over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union on 1 January, with migration as one of its priorities.

Malta is preparing to welcome EU leaders to a summit next week aimed at taking urgent action to reduce deadly sea crossings from north Africa to Italy. Speaking in the European parliament last week, Muscat warned that “unless the essence of the Turkey deal is replicated in the central Mediterranean, Europe will face a major migration crisis”. 

EU leaders struck a grand bargain with Turkey in March 2016, which offered money for Syrian refugees and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens in exchange for a crackdown on people smugglers operating from the country. EU officials believe the deal has been the main factor behind the dramatic reduction in arrivals to Greece. Fewer than 50 people a day have arrived on Greek shores in recent weeks, compared with 1,900 a day one year ago.

In contrast, the number of people risking the sea crossing across the central Mediterranean to Italy has continued to rise, climbing to a record 181,000 arrivals in 2016, up from 154,000 the previous year. More than 90% of those migrants embark from Libya. In 2016, more than 5,000 people lost their lives in the Mediterranean.

Instead of replicating the deal with Turkey, Mogherini announced that €200 million will be allocated to the EU Trust Fund for Africa, with a view to decrease migration across the central Mediterranean between the European Union and Libya.

The money will in part be used to expand the EU’s training program for the Libyan coastguard, and to develop a programme of voluntary returns, helping some of the displaced migrants stranded in Libya return to their country of origin.

Since 2011, Libya has been in a state of turmoil, which has resulted in an outflow of refugees from the country. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), there are up to one million migrants from Egypt, Niger and Sudan, currently in Libya. Many Libyans, and individuals fleeing repressive regimes, instability and poverty across north and sub-Saharan Africa, choose to embark on dangerous routes to the European continent via the Mediterranean Sea.