Evarist Bartolo in Libya on Thursday for talks on cooperation

Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo is expected to discuss regional stability and migration with the Libyan government during a visit to Tripoli on Thursday

Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo
Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo

Evarist Bartolo will be discussing regional stability with a focus on migration with his Libyan counterpart when he visits Tripoli on Thursday.

The Foreign Minister is also expected to discuss how to enhance cooperation between both countries.

Malta and Libya agreed to set up joint cooperation centres in Valletta and Tripoli last May to tackle migration in the region.

Malta sought the Libyan government’s help to stem migration by having people smuggler boats intercepted by the Libyan coastguard before they reach Malta’s search and rescue area.

The Libyan coastguard rescued and returned to Libya 6,265 people this year, the Maltese foreign ministry said in a statement announcing Bartolo’s visit.

“Around half of these people would have eventually drowned or end up in Malta’s SAR,” the ministry noted.

The Maltese government is under pressure domestically over migrant arrivals, with almost 200 being brought ashore over the past week after having been rescued by the Armed Forces of Malta.

Half of these migrants have tested positive for coronavirus, a sign of the deteriorating health situation in Libya.

Prime Minister Robert Abela had travelled to Libya in May to secure the Libyan government’s cooperation on migration after Malta and Italy faced an influx of migrant arrivals since the start of the year.

Malta had closed its ports due to the coronavirus emergency and attempted to hold more than 400 rescued migrants on chartered pleasure boats just outside territorial waters until a European agreement for relocation was achieved. However, the government had to bring them ashore after migrants revolted over deteriorating conditions.

Last month, several European countries pledged to relocate 284 migrants from Malta.

Since Abela’s visit, Malta has seen a drop in migrant arrivals, which only picked up recently.