EU mission on Libya border
The interior ministers of Germany and Italy make the proposal in a letter to the Commission
19 May, 2017
The German and Italian interior ministers called for an EU mission to be installed on the border between Libya and Niger as soon as possible to stem migrant crossings to Europe, news wires reported last week. Thomas de Maiziere and Marco Minniti have sent a letter to the European Commission on 11 May, of which AFP obtained a copy, saying they "are convinced that we all must do more" to "prevent that hundreds of thousands of people once again risk their lives in Libya and on the Mediterranean Sea in the hands of smugglers." Italy had already registered nearly 42,500 migrants coming by sea by mid-April this year, a figure 40% higher than last year, as 97% of them arrived from Libya, the letter noted.
To close the migrant route from Niger to Libya, the ministers are seeking "support for growth and development programmes in local communities" along the border. Other measures include "technical and financial support" for Libyan authorities fighting illegal migration, particularly at the border with Niger. According to the Libyan government, between 7,000 and 8,000 migrants mostly from sub-Saharan Africa are being held in Libyan detention centres after entering the country illegally.
Libya has long struggled to control its 5,000 kilometres of southern borders with Sudan, Chad and Niger, even before the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi. But smugglers have stepped up their lucrative business in the post-uprising chaos. The Libyan side of the border is under the nominal control of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, one of several factions that have vied for control over the remnants of the country in post Gaddafi era. The UN-backed government, which controls the north-east of the country, said it was open to the possibility of creating a new militia to patrol the southern border. But the authorities there say it does not have the capacity of doing so, and has openly admitted that it would need help from other countries.
Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti last Monday handed over to the Libyan coastguard four patrol boats repaired in Italy as part of cooperation in the fight against illegal immigration. The crews were trained in Italy "to monitor Libyan territorial waters... and contribute, together with Italy and Europe, to security in the Mediterranean", Minniti said during his brief visit to Tripoli, where he held talks with Government of National Unity head Fayez al-Sarraj. Italian minister said that another six patrol boats would be handed over to Libya soon after the training of the crews.