Saturday

19th Sep 2020

EU unveils €200m Libya migrant project

  • The EU will "significantly increase" training and support for the Libyan coast guard (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

The European Commission unveiled a €200 million programme for Libya and north Africa on Wednesday (25 January) to stem irregular migration flows, increase surveillance, and save lives within Libya's territorial waters.

The money will also finance efforts to better monitor land borders between Libya, Chad, and Niger.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Libya, wracked by years of internecine conflict, is the biggest staging point for people leaving Africa for Europe in often lethally dangerous conditions.

Some 4,500 people died last year making the effort.

Broader questions on how much EU states will contribute to the pot and tenuous relations with Libyan authorities in Tripoli may complicate the plan.

EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told MEPs on Tuesday that "real discussions" with Libyan authorities had proven difficult. He noted some 300,000 people were waiting to attempt the Mediterranean Sea crossing.

The EU's foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, told reporters the following day that that was not the case, however.

"We work with the government and national courts, with prime minister [Fayez] al-Sarraj, we also work with municipalities," she said.

The EU commission is drawing the €200 million to cover expenses for 2017 from its €1.8 billion Trust Fund for Africa.

The plan is to have EU states match the amount, but Mogherini said she was unable to "anticipate expectations" when asked how much EU states were likely to contribute.

She noted that any EU money going into the country would be carefully monitored.

Mogherini will meet al-Sarraj next week to hash out the proposal ahead of an EU summit with heads of state and government in Malta on 3 February. She also met with Martin Kobler, the UN's special envoy to Libya.

Kobler was supposed to fly to Tobruk international airport last week, but his office in Tunisia told this website the flight had been canceled "and postponed due to a procedural delay."

Seahorse

Part of the earmarked funds will also go to increasing Libyan border surveillance in the lead-up to the full launch of the Seahorse Mediterranean Network sometime this Spring.

Seahorse is to connect national coordination centres for border surveillance from Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

It means providing the Libyan coastguard with equipment to connect to member states to better monitor incidents in real time. Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia might also be linked up.

Avramopoulos said that Europol, the EU police agency, and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, also known as Frontex, will play a key role.

"Both agencies will actively contribute to the cracking down, the dismantling of smuggler networks and the organised crime networks hiding behind them," he said.

Mogherini and Avramopoulos also dismissed ideas of replicating the EU-Turkey deal in Libya.

The EU is paying Turkey billions in humanitarian aid and moving toward visa-free access for Turks to Europe in return for Turkey’s help in stopping migrants.

No Turkey-type deal

"The two situations are completely different, the two countries are completely different, the composition of the flow is completely different, and the set of measures are completely different, so there is no comparison that can be done. The two things are completely distinct, one from the other," said Mogherini on Wednesday.

An EU naval operation, Sophia, is patrolling the fringes of Libya's territorial waters and arrested over 100 human smugglers last year.

It cannot get a UN permit to enter Libyan waters, but the EU aims to train and equip the Libyan coastguard to operate there instead.

"The proposal is to increase significantly the training of the Libyan coastguard," said Mogherini.

At the same time, Mogherini is trying to gain greater access to Libya for the United Nations refugee agency and the International Organisation for Migration.

Russia

"That would be for us the only guarantee that international standards would be met, lives are protected, and the management of the flow inside the country are done properly," she said.

In an added complication, Malta earlier this month warned that Libya was at risk of descending into civil war.

A Russian-backed Libyan warlord, Khalifa Haftar, is slowly advancing towards Libya's capital Tripoli, to challenge the authority of the UN and EIU -recognised government, al-Sarraj’s GNA.

Haftar leads the Libyan National Army, a powerful militia, and is being funded by Moscow, which wants to establish a naval base in Libya, the Maltese foreign minister warned.

Malta raises alarm on Russia in Libya

A Russian-backed warlord could start a “civil war” in Libya, increasing refugee flows to Europe, Malta, the new EU presidency, has said.

EU mulls Turkey-type migrant deal with Libya

The Maltese EU presidency said a "similar approach" to the Turkey deal could stop migrants coming from Libya, but the UN said the plan was a non-starter.

EU leaders to push migration issue outside of Europe

EU leaders endorsed an Italian deal with Libya to help the North African country stem the flow of people, and pledged €200 million to help its coastguard patrol the seas in an effort to curb migration.

News in Brief

  1. Belarus president puts army on EU borders
  2. US: Lebanese group hoarding explosives in EU states
  3. Russia loses EU sanctions appeal
  4. UK guidelines explain Brexit treaty-violation plan
  5. Over 10,000 corona cases a day in France
  6. Greek police move Moria refugees following fire
  7. WHO warns Europe not to cut 14-day quarantine period
  8. MEPs urge EU Council to 'finally' protect rights in Poland

Border pre-screening centres part of new EU migration pact

Michael Spindelegger, the former minister of foreign affairs of Austria and current director of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), reveals some of the proposals in the European Commission's upcoming pact on migration and asylum.

EU boosts pledges to relocate minors from Greece

Over 120 asylum seeking children and teenagers in Greece have so far been relocated to a handful of EU states in a scheme the European Commission says is a demonstration of solidarity. EU states have pledged to take in 2,000.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Commissioner: No one will like new EU migration pact
  2. Buying an EU passport 'no use for evading sanctions'
  3. MEPs call for first-ever EU law on Romani inclusion
  4. EU to help draft Libya's strategy on border security
  5. Spain to recognise Kosovo if it gets Serbia deal
  6. Ylva Johansson on Migration and Drama Queens
  7. Does Erdoğan's long arm now reach Belgian universities?
  8. Biden threatens UK trade deal over Brexit shambles

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us