Malta Summit: EU leaders will push for measures to stop migration from Libya

Studying the possibility of ‘sending migrants back to Libya’ is included in a draft declaration to be made by the EU leaders on Friday

November 2015: EU and African leaders pose for a photograph ahead of the Valletta Summit on Migration. (Photo: Ray Attard/MediaToday)
November 2015: EU and African leaders pose for a photograph ahead of the Valletta Summit on Migration. (Photo: Ray Attard/MediaToday)

Leaders of the 28-nation bloc will continue to push for measures aimed at stemming the migration flow from North Africa to Europe, with the heads of state and government expected to agree that the European Union looks “at the possibility of sending migrants back to Libya, and the potential barriers to this, while respecting international law”.

There are however legal risks associated with this proposal due to Libya’s poor security situation.

The EU leaders are meeting on Friday in Malta for an informal summit, during which they are set to give their “political backing” to a series of new measures targeting migration flow.

According to a draft declaration seen by the Reuters, the EU leaders are expected to state: "We are determined to take additional action to stem migratory flows along the Central Mediterranean route and break the business model of smugglers... We will step up our work with Libya as the main country of departure as well as with its North African and sub-Saharan neighbours. Our actions will be carried out in full respect for human rights and international law" and in conjunction with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“In Libya, capacity building is key for the authorities to acquire control over the land and sea borders and to combat transit and smuggling activities... The EU will also step up cooperation with and assistance to Libyan regional and local communities."

According to Reuters, leaders would agree to provide and fund more training, equipment and support to the Libyan national coastguard, and seek to break smugglers' networks; they would also seek to ensure "adequate reception capacities and conditions in Libya for migrants". The EU hopes it could provide funding to the UNHCR and IOM to set up such sites.

The EU, Reuters adds, would attempt to step up voluntary returns by migrants, and tell them along their route across Africa about the perils of the journey, to discourage them from trying. It also said that “the EU would help police Libya's land borders by offering financing, training or equipment to help ensure fewer people get into Libya. It would also step up cooperation with neighbouring Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria”.

Meanwhile, former UK foreign secretary David Miliband called on the EU to step up its efforts to help refugees.

“When they meet in Valletta for a migration summit this Friday, European leaders should announce that they will fill this void and offer safe haven to 60,000 refugees this year,” Miliband wrote.

“This must be the first step towards increasing significantly the number of refugee resettlement places available in Europe. Countries that currently do not participate in resettlement schemes should be forced to cooperate, and those that have reduced their quotas, such as Denmark, should be made to reverse their decision.”

Miliband added: “The Valletta summit is set to focus on closing the routes into Europe from North Africa, but even the strictest measures will not stop desperate people being driven from their homes. The only sustainable and responsible way to address migration flows is to offer safe and legal routes to protection.”