First Published: 2017-03-20

Rome meeting looks to curb deadly sea crossings
EU is trying to set up migration accord with conflict-hit Libya similar to one with Turkey, as interior ministers from central Mediterranean countries hold meeting in Rome.
Middle East Online

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj share word

ROME - Interior ministers from the central Mediterranean were meeting in Rome on Monday to ramp up efforts to curb migration from Libya amid a sharp rise in the number of people attempting the perilous crossing to Europe.

One year after a controversial deal with Turkey to stop migrants setting out across the Aegean Sea for Greece, the EU is trying to set up a similar accord with conflict-hit Libya, despite fierce opposition from human rights campaigners.

Over 3,300 people were rescued from unseaworthy vessels off the north African country over the weekend, bringing the number of arrivals in Italy to nearly 20,000 so far in 2017 -- a significant increase on previous years.

Interior ministers from Algeria, Austria, Germany, Italy, Libya, Malta, Slovenia, Switzerland and Tunisia were taking part in the meeting, along with the European Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos.

Italy's Interior Minister Marco Minniti said the meeting would focus on "policies of development, social intervention, border control and repatriation" and that he hoped it would lead to "an increasingly shared management of migratory flows".

Libya's UN-backed unity government has requested 800 million euros ($860 million) worth of equipment to help patrol its coast and territorial waters, including radars, boats, helicopters and all-terrain vehicles, according to Italy's Corriere della Sera daily.

There is also talk of a Libya-based operational centre to coordinate rescues in international waters off the North African coast, relieving the burden on Rome, which has been forced to monitor and intervene well beyond its established maritime surveillance zone.

Experts say some of the equipment requested by Libya would fall foul of a UN embargo on arms imports into the country.

Critics also warn against planned repatriations of asylum seekers to a country where allegations of torture, rape and murder are rife.

Around 20 migrants were killed by traffickers earlier this month on a beach in Libya after refusing to get onto a rickety boat for Europe because of bad weather at sea.

 

Arab leaders reject 'foreign interference' in their affairs

UN chief in Baghdad to review aid efforts

Lebanese PM Hariri visits Saudi Arabia

Turkey says military operation in northern Syria over

Palestinian pints divide Israeli pub

Rush hour on Mosul's 'displacement highway'

Palestinians commemorate ‘Land Day’

Qatar Airways to offer free laptops on US flights

American-Israeli teen arrested for US bomb threats 'has tumour'

Netanyahu vows to move ahead on new settlement plan

Tillerson says Assad’s fate up to Syrian people

Number of Syrian refugees tops five million says UN

Deal struck in Israeli row over public broadcaster

Palestinian NGOs urge Hamas to reopen border

Austria issues Turkey travel warning

US Secretary of State Tillerson in Ankara for talks

Jailed leader of pro-Kurd party to start hunger strike in Turkey

IS truck bomb kills at least 14 at Baghdad checkpoint

Iran says Arabs should focus on Zionist, not Iranian, meddling

Israel cuts $2-million contribution to UN

Israeli police shoot dead Palestinian woman armed with scissors

Bahrain sentences two to death for police bombing

Boat from Libya capsizes in Med, 146 migrants feared missing

Saudi police kill 2 gunmen during raid in Shiite-majority town

Over 60,000 S.Sudanese flee to Sudan in last three months

Bus bombing hits Syria's Homs, five dead

CAF chief Ahmad backs Morocco 2026 World Cup bid

US arrests Turkish banker for helping Iran violate sanctions

Turkey voices opposition to Kurdish flag in Kirkuk

Engineers to carry out urgent maintenance on IS-held Syria dam

Palestinian president meets Trump envoy at Arab summit

4 besieged Syria towns to be evacuated under deal

Arab leaders meet in Sweimeh on conflicts, 'terror'

No unanimity on Syria ahead of Arab Summit

UN says over 300 civilians killed since start of west Mosul offensive

Disputed Iraqi province votes to fly Kurdish flag

Germany laments Turkey's 'unacceptable' spying

Syria opposition says no peace deal without US role

Turkey sends delegation to UK over electronics ban

UN chief urges Arab leaders to confront Syria war

Carlos the Jackal sentenced to life for Paris bombing

Arab League set to oppose Trump Israel embassy shift

Tributes flood in for anti-apartheid hero Ahmed Kathrada

US vows to never allow 'Israel-bashing' at UN

Netanyahu ban on MP visits to flashpoint holy site challenged