Libyan FM opposed to EU's 'disembarkation platforms'

Siala says Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco reject EU's plan for "regional disembarkation platforms" to stem flow of migrants entering bloc.

VIENNA - Libya and its north African neighbours are opposed to the EU's plan for "regional disembarkation platforms" to stem the flow of migrants entering the bloc, Tripoli's Foreign Minister Mohamed al-Taher Siala said in an Austrian newspaper interview Friday.

"All north African countries reject this proposal -- Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Libya, as well," Siala -- who has been on an official visit to Vienna this week -- told the Die Presse newspaper.

"So with which countries does the EU want to agree these disembarkation platforms?" he asked in comments reported in German.

In June, EU member states approved the idea of creating centres outside Europe to assess migrants trying to reach the bloc and decide which are refugees in need of protection and which are economic migrants who should be returned to their home countries.

The EU suggested setting up these "disembarkation platforms" in consultation with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration.

Siala estimated that around 30,000 illegal migrants were currently held in detention centres in Libya "and around 750,000 outside".

Libya was working with the EU to send the migrants to their home countries, he said.

"But unfortunately, some of these countries -- many west African countries -- refuse to take them back."

In order to reduce the flow of migrants, Siala said Libya had reached an agreement with Chad, Niger and Sudan to bolster protection of its southern border.

"That's actually where the European border begins, not the Mediterranean," he said.

Asked what the EU could do to help protect that border, Siala suggested the bloc could offer "logistical (aid): landcruisers, drones, helicopters and perhaps a few light weapons."

European Union and Arab leaders are to meet in Egypt in late February for their first summit as part of efforts to forge a new European-African alliance and fight migrant smuggling.

European leaders first mentioned the summit in Austria -- which currently holds the rotating EU presidency -- last month as they vowed to intensify talks with Egypt and other North African countries to curb illegal migration.