Monday

18th Jun 2018

Confusion swirls round Macron's Libya 'hotspots'

  • Op to 1 million people living in migrant camps in Libya (Photo: ECHO/M.Eick)

A reported French plan to create "hotspots" in Libya this summer, to check asylum seekers before they try to come to Europe, remains unclear amid legal difficulties and official denials.

"The idea is to create hotspots to avoid people taking crazy risks when they are not all eligible for asylum," French president Emmanuel Macron was quoted as saying by Agence France Presse (AFP) on Thursday (27 July).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

  • Macron reportedly said: "The idea is to create hotspots to avoid people taking crazy risks" (Photo: elysee.fr)

According to AFP, he said that he would send staff from Ofpra, the French office for the protection of refugees and stateless persons, to Italy, Libya, and, possibly, to Niger.

"I intend to do it this summer," he added, AFP said.

He reportedly noted that "other European countries are very reluctant" and that France would "do it" even without the EU.

The announcement - made while visiting a refugee facility in Orleans, in central France - appears to have been premature.

"Security conditions must be met, however. Today they are not," the president's office later told AFP, casting doubt on whether his intentions would be followed by action.

Details of the AFP quotes were also contested by Macron’s administration, with the Elysee denying that Macron had used the word “hotspot” or named Libya.

A French source told EUobserver that Macron meant asylum requests should be treated as closely as possible to the migrants' countries of origin.

In a speech he gave during the visit, the French leader also said he wanted the EU to be “able to process asylum seekers as close as possible to the ground, in the safest third country, close to the country of origin".

He said France would send Ofpra missions to Italy and "on African soil, in safe countries," but did not name Libya in this context.

In his speech, he referred to Libya only to point out that 800,000 to 1 million people lived in camps there and that they would not all be eligible for asylum. He also said that he wanted to "politically stabilise" the country.

The initial AFP report on Macron’s “hotspots” in “Libya” wrong-footed the European Commission.

A Commission spokeswoman, Natasha Bertaud, said that the EU executive would need time to "define exactly what is being proposed."

Too much in a word

"We're open to discussing with any and all of our member states how we can improve the situation along the central Mediterranean route," said Bertaud.

The reported use of the word "hotspots" by Macron created particular confusion.

The so-called EU hotspots, established in Greece and Italy, are facilities where migrants are identified, registered, and where they can request asylum.

Bertaud noted that "many things are comprised in the word 'hotspot'," and said it was difficult to see what Macron might have meant in the case of a non-EU country like Libya.

Creating hotspots in Libya, an EU source pointed out, would imply that they followed the rules of Eurodac, the EU's fingerprint database, when identifying asylum applicants, and would mean bringing in judges to supervise the process.

Processing asylum seekers in Libya would also mean that EU countries, and at least France, would accept to relocate them.

"I don't think that's what Macron has in mind," the EU source said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz welcomed Macron’s ”important contribution to the closure of the Mediterranean route and stopping illegal migration".

Refugee camps

Kurz, as well as the Hungarian government, have been pushing for the opening of refugee camps in Libya in order to prevent people from coming to Europe.

Some 30 camps already exist in Libya for migrants and displaced people. The UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), operate in about 20 of them.

Bertaud said, for now, the EU was working with the UNHCR and the IOM to improve conditions in the camps and to resettle asylum seekers in the EU.

Macron's announcement comes two days after he hosted Libya's rival political leaders, Fayez al-Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar, for a meeting in which they agreed to a ceasefire and to elections next year.

Meanwhile, the EU continues its effort to prevent smugglers transporting people across the Mediterranean.

On Tuesday, it extended the Sophia EU maritime mission until the end of 2018 and, on Thursday, a commission spokesman said that the EU was "ready to move to the next phase”, in which EU ships would intervene in Libyan waters.

This story was updated at 7PM in Brussels on Thursday, taking note of the Elysee's denial of the AFP quotes

Macron wants asylum claims to start in Africa

The French president hosted a mini-summit with leaders from Chad, Libya and Niger, along with Germany, Italy and Spain. Among the proposals is a plan to set up safe zones in Niger and Chad to initiate asylum claims.

EU asylum claims drop, Germany registers most

EU states, plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, registered 728,470 asylum applications last year, a 44 percent drop compared to 2016. Germany had the highest registrations at 222,560, followed by Italy and France.

Investigation

How Italy's government might hijack EU migration policy

Matteo Salvini promises to send record numbers of migrants packing. However, that quickly comes up against the cost, logistics, and diplomacy, of how such a threat would be carried out - and the price for the EU as a whole.

Opinion

EU summit: migrants get a 'vote' too

Non-citizens from Nigeria to Afghanistan get a binding 'vote' on whatever the EU's internal debates submit to them. They will vote with their feet on whether to keep trying their luck when faced with a new system.

Opinion

The Aquarius migrant boat - and the EU policy failings

The precarious situation the Aquarius and its passengers found themselves is a consequence of EU member states' failure to manage migration in a strategic and coordinated manner, where member states beyond those receiving new arrivals are part of the solution.

News in Brief

  1. Report: Audi CEO arrested over Dieselgate
  2. EU-Australia trade talks kick off in Brussels next month
  3. France and Germany moving closer to eurozone reform
  4. Merkel to meet Conte to find migration compromise
  5. Seehofer gives Merkel time to strike EU migration deal
  6. Schroeder and Sarkozy appear with Putin at World Cup
  7. Tennis champ and 'EU diplomat' claims immunity
  8. Italy threatens to ditch EU-Canada free trade deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  2. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Latest News

  1. Orban to EPP: turn 'Christian democratic' or face challenge
  2. Is EU retail sector equipped for 21st century?
  3. Tear gas bodes ill for Macedonia name deal
  4. EU asylum claims drop, Germany registers most
  5. EU summit: migrants get a 'vote' too
  6. Basque threat of 'second front' for independence
  7. Progressive regulation needed now for 21st century finance
  8. Greece and Merkel's fate top This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us