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EU already has a military presence in international waters off Libya

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Italy and Libya reach agreement over Mediterranean migrant crisis
Italy and Libya have reached an agreement designed to try and stop migrants from setting off from Libya in an attempt to reach European shores, ahead of a European Union summit on defence and the migrant crisis.
Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni told reporters that the deal is “just a piece” of a wider plan that will be discussed at the summit, and that the EU must make an “economic commitment” to ensure the success of the Libyan-Italian plan.

The agreement between Libyan premier Fayez Serraj and Mr Gentiloni calls for more support for the Libyan Coast Guard and the “humanitarian repatriation” of migrants, with a possible economic deal in the pipeline.

Although the EU already has a military presence in international waters off Libya, moving inside its maritime border would have a bigger impact on catching smugglers attempting to cross the sea.

European Council president Donald Tusk said the deal had already been discussed with German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande, with leaders agreeing to support the memorandum.

“Europe should and will stand by Italy in sharing responsibility,” he said.

In 2016, some 364,000 migrants reached Europe using two main sea routes to Italy and Greece, according to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex.

In the same year, at least 5,083 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, according to figures from the International Organisation for Migration.

Mr Tusk said that the EU summit could pave the way for humanitarian action to save the lives of poor people attempting to reach Europe who have no chance of being granted asylum status in the continent.

He wants EU members to take a tougher stance and break smuggling rings to curb migrants’ dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean, because “this is the only way to stop people dying in the desert and at sea, and this is also the only way to gain control over migration in Europe”.

“This goal is within our reach,” he said on the eve of the summit.
OVER A BARREL: Libya demands EU taxpayers cough up or face massive migrant influx

LIBYA today laid down the gauntlet to Brussels chiefs by demanding a series of bumper aid payouts in return for helping to prevent a fresh migrant crisis which would severely damage the EU.

By NICK GUTTERIDGE IN BRUSSELS

The North African country said it would need more money from European nations if it is to strike a deal with them to stop large numbers of asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean.

Brussels dropped its biggest hint yet today that it wants to seal an agreement with Libya like the one it has with Turkey, under which economic migrants are swiftly deported from the continent.

Libyan prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj visited the Belgian capital today to lay down his demands, after his Maltese counterpart Joseph Muscat warned a fresh migrant crisis could kill the whole EU project.

The Libyan leader demanded more cash to stem the flow of migrants to Italy
Mr al-Sarraj also held talks with EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker
Like Turkey’s president Recep Erdogan before him Mr al-Sarraj, who is head of the war-ravaged country’s internationally recognised government, seemed to recognise he has Europe over a barrel on the issue of migration.

He told a press conference: “Irregular migration is a major problem. It is something dramatic. We hope that the EU mechanisms to help Libya will be more practical.

“This will help us to solve the problem and to save the lives of the irregular migrants and return them to their countries of origins, where they should hopefully find some jobs and growth so they don’t need to think of leaving and migrating at risk to their lives.”

We hope that the EU mechanisms to help Libya will be more practical
Libyan PM Fayez al-Sarraj
He then added: “We are not going to mention the amount of money that … dedicated to Libya for this help because they are very humble, very small amounts.”

The EU has already agreed to help bolster Libya’s coast guard with extra training and is also set to lay on the cash to persuade the impoverished country to take back migrants caught at sea.

Brussels had to promise Turkey an eye watering £5 billion to get it to agree to a similar deal, although it is believed that Libya would demand less than this.

EU Council president Donald Tusk said: “Europe has proved it is able to close down irregular routes of migration as we did on the eastern Mediterranean route.

“Now it is time to close down the route from Libya to Italy. I can assure you it is within our reach.”

Migrants try to reach a rescue craft from their overcrowded raft, as lifeguards from the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms rescue all 112 on aboard
An overcrowded raft drifts out of control in the central Mediterranean Sea
Lifeguards pull a migrant to the former fishing vessel Golfo Azzurro during a rescue operation, as lifeguards from the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms rescue all 112 on aboard a drifting raft
A migrant infant cries after she was rescued from an overcrowded raft, as lifeguards from the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms rescue all 112 on aboard
A migrant looks on onboard the former fishing trawler Golfo Azzurro after he was rescued along with other migrants by the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms as the raft he was on drifted out of contol in the central Mediterranean Sea
Panicking migrants try to reach a rescue craft from their overcrowded raft in Mediterranean Sea
Migrants try to reach a rescue craft from their overcrowded raft, as lifeguards from the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms rescue all on aboard
He vowed: “What we need is a full determination to do that. We owe it first and foremost to those who suffer and risk their lives but we also owe it to the Italians and all Europeans.”

The deadly route across the Mediterranean is now the main gateway to Europe, with some 181,000 arrivals in 2016.

It is run by smugglers who operate with impunity in Libya, which slid into chaos after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Italy and Libya reach agreement over Mediterranean migrant crisis
Italy and Libya have reached an agreement designed to try and stop migrants from setting off from Libya in an attempt to reach European shores, ahead of a European Union summit on defence and the migrant crisis.
Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni told reporters that the deal is “just a piece” of a wider plan that will be discussed at the summit, and that the EU must make an “economic commitment” to ensure the success of the Libyan-Italian plan.

The agreement between Libyan premier Fayez Serraj and Mr Gentiloni calls for more support for the Libyan Coast Guard and the “humanitarian repatriation” of migrants, with a possible economic deal in the pipeline.

Although the EU already has a military presence in international waters off Libya, moving inside its maritime border would have a bigger impact on catching smugglers attempting to cross the sea.

European Council president Donald Tusk said the deal had already been discussed with German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande, with leaders agreeing to support the memorandum.

“Europe should and will stand by Italy in sharing responsibility,” he said.

In 2016, some 364,000 migrants reached Europe using two main sea routes to Italy and Greece, according to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex.

In the same year, at least 5,083 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, according to figures from the International Organisation for Migration.

Mr Tusk said that the EU summit could pave the way for humanitarian action to save the lives of poor people attempting to reach Europe who have no chance of being granted asylum status in the continent.

He wants EU members to take a tougher stance and break smuggling rings to curb migrants’ dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean, because “this is the only way to stop people dying in the desert and at sea, and this is also the only way to gain control over migration in Europe”.

“This goal is within our reach,” he said on the eve of the summit.

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