[WATCH] EU states and Commission agree: Turkey migration deal not applicable in Libya

The European Commissioner for Migration says that until there is greater stability in Libya, it would be impossible for the EU to finalise a deal aimed at stemming the flow of migration towards Europe

EU Commissioner says progress registered in discussion on migration and security
EU Commissioner says progress registered in discussion on migration and security
Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos (left) and Malta's Home Affairs Minister Carmel Abela addressing the media
Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos (left) and Malta's Home Affairs Minister Carmel Abela addressing the media

All 28 member states of the European Union agreed with the European Commission’s assessment that a Turkey-style deal was not possible for Libya, according to Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs.

He insisted Libya was not Turkey and that the agreement the EU had reached with Turkey could not be replicated in the North African state.

Avramopoulos was responding to questions put to him by MaltaToday during a press conference with Malta’s Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela at the President’s Palace in Valletta on Thursday, at the end of a summit of EU home affairs ministers.

He would not comment on whether Malta had asked the Commission to consider further means on repatriating immigrants not granted protection by the EU back to their country of origin.

“Any agreement, including repatriation of persons to their home countries, would be done in full adherence to the basic principles of human rights,” he said.

As to the commission's proposals, Avramopoulos made it clear that the European Commission was nor substituting the role of the Council.

"The member states fully agree with the EC that we should treat every case separately," he said. "Libya is not Turkey and what we did in Turkey cannot be replicated in Libya."

The Comissioner said the EU was waiting for Libya to stabllise itself. 

"Let us hope that the country will be back to normal very soon. We have partnerships with other African countries in the Compact Partnership Frameworks," he said. "Our aim is to stem the flows from the Central Mediterranean route and to deepen the relation with all these countries."

Abela said that Libya was a crucial country that the EU needed to work with.

"Our wish is that Libya becomes a functional state, to have an interlocutor as a government with the EU so that we can work with the Libyan authorities to restrict the number of migrants," he said. "There is a criminal activity going on, and the smugglers are exploiting these migrants."

On the relocation and repatriation of immigrants, he said a holistic approach to managing migration better was warranted.

“Relocation among states is important, but so is returning those migrants that do not qualify for protection to their home country,” Abela said. “We also have to provide a legal migration path towards Europe. 

Avramopoulos said that the possible additional measures the Commission proposed for stemming the flow of migrants through the central Mediterranean.

“These proposals are focused on fighting smuggling, helping to manage migratory flows better and improving the conditions of refugees in Libya,” he said. “And always, our proposals are in full and complete observance of human rights.” 

The two also agreed that a reform of the Dublin System – under which each EU country currently has to determine if and when it is responsible for handling an asylum claim – was crucial for an agreement on a common asylum system.

“The migration flows 20 years ago, when the Dublin System was introduced, were negligible compared to today’s figures,” Abela said.

Avramopoulos stressed that the Dublin System was not dead but that it needed to be revised.

“Our ambition is to reach a new agreement that is more fair than the existing one, especially for frontline states facing the brunt of the migration problem,” he said.

Abela said that he was pleased with the progress registered in the discussions by ministers aimed at securing a way forward on the common asylum system and enhancing solidarity across the bloc. 

The ministers had also discussed uses of IT systems in border management and security, with all ministers agreeing on the importance of Europe being more secure, he said.

“Citizens have to be safer and feel safer,” he said. “The Maltese presidency remains realistic, but after today’s discussions, we are optimistic that an agreement will be reached in the near future on a solidarity mechanism for all member states.”