Italy and Libya sign memorandum on stopping migration flow

EU president Donald Tusk said after talks with Fayez Serraj 'it is time to close the (migrant) route from Libya to Italy'

Fayez Al-Serraj and Donald Tusk
Fayez Al-Serraj and Donald Tusk

Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni and Libyan counterpart Fayez al-Serraj yesterday announced they had signed a memorandum of understanding to combat illegal migration and human trafficking in the Mediterranean.

As EU leaders meet in Malta for a summit under the Maltese presidency, European Council President Donald Tusk said that the goal of stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Italy was “within reach” under the new deal.

Tusk said after talks with Serraj, that “it is time to close the (migrant) route from Libya to Italy” and that “the EU has shown it is able to close the routes of irregular migration, as it has done in the eastern Mediterranean.”

Tusk said the Central Mediterranean route, which is yet to pick up ahead of the spring season, was “not sustainable either for the EU or for Libya”, where he said traffickers were undermining the Libyan state’s authority for their profit.

Serraj’s embattled administration in Tripoli has so far been unable to contain warring factions in Libya, led by militias, Islamists and the army of renegade general Khalifa Haftar, who enjoys Russian support.

Malta’s human rights NGOs have however called on the European Commission to refrain from taking action on the Maltese presidency’s plans for a €200 million migration plan that has proposed the suspension of the key humanitarian principle of non-refoulement.

“Anything short of an absolute and clear non-engagement will inevitably result in complicity in flouting the Union’s values and making these Europe’s darkest day,” the NGOs said in a stark warning over the Maltese plan.

The Maltese government has suggested a way of bypassing non-refoulement in times of “international crisis” in a bid to stem the migration flow from Libya.