Thursday

22nd Feb 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).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 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.

Libya return demand triggers reintegration headaches

The UN migration agency (IOM) had planned to help return and reintegrate 5,000 people from Libya to their home countries, but ended up aiding 20,000 in 2017. The extra demand has piled on the pressure.

Frontex naval operation to look for 'foreign fighters'

The EU border and coast guard agency, or Frontex, has launched a new naval operation called Themis. The operation replaces its surveillance Triton mission but with a bigger emphasis on security and intelligence gathering.

News in Brief

  1. Juncker's right-hand man warns of 'institutional blockage'
  2. Greek parliament to open probe on PMs and EU commissioner
  3. May gathers Brexit ministers to hammer out UK position
  4. Tajani asks Juncker for all EMA Brexit relocation documents
  5. Hahn: EU to back entry talks with Albania and Macedonia
  6. UEFA signs deal to promote 'European values' at EURO 2020
  7. Belgian PM to host 11 EU leaders ahead of summit
  8. Tusk all but rules out pan-EU candidates in 2019 elections

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  2. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  4. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  5. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  7. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. Dutch MPs vote on ending 'Ukraine-type' referendums
  2. Corruption report: Hungary gets worse, Italy makes progress
  3. UK seeks flexible transition length after Brexit
  4. Commission defence of Barroso meeting leaves 'discrepancies'
  5. MEPs bar WMD and killer robots from new EU arms fund
  6. Canete gets EU parliament pension while still commissioner
  7. Bank of Latvia sends deputy to ECB amid bribery probe
  8. We are not (yet) one people

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  2. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  4. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  5. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  6. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  9. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  11. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  12. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission