European Union is capable of stemming illegal migration from Libya across the central Mediterranean and will unveil new measures to stop it at an upcoming summit on Malta, the bloc’s chief Donald Tusk said Thursday.
“Now it is time to close down the route from Libya to Italy,” Tusk said after talks in Brussels with Libyan Premier Fayez Al Serraj and earlier with Italy’s Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
“The EU has shown it is able to close the irregular migration routes, as it has done in the eastern Mediterranean,” Tusk stated. “I can assure you that it is within our reach.”
“We owe it first and foremost to those who suffer and risk their lives. But we also owe it to Italians and all Europeans,” Tusk said.
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He warned that migrant drowning were expected to increase as the warmer spring weather arrived.
Tusk said there would be “additional measures” announced at Friday’s summit in Malta to “more effectively combat the trafficking networks and better manage migratory flows”.
Many thousands of people have died in recent years trying to reach the EU from Libya by boat.
Most of those setting sail from the strife-wracked North African country are economic migrants with little chance of being granted asylum.
The bloc is boosting the training of Tripoli’s coast guard and offering more money and aid to Libya and other African countries to seal their borders so migrants seeking better lives in Europe do not get through.
Serraj, who heads Libya’s UN-backed unity government, said the EU had so far earmarked insufficient resources for his country. The EU has not given an overall figure for its aid to Libya but Serraj called it “a small amount”.
Tusk reiterated his “full support” for Serraj’s government but “urged all Libyans to put aside their differences” to allow the EU to “make a greater commitment” to the country.