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.

 

Saudi, allies unveil Qatar 'terrorist' blacklist

Israel dismantles metal detectors from holy site

Trump says Syrian rebel aid program was 'dangerous and wasteful'

Iran gets more involved in Iraq militarily

600,000 Yemenis expected to contract cholera in 2017

14 Saudis face ‘imminent’ unfair execution says Amnesty

Rival Libyan leaders hold talks in France

Amnesty International urges EU to 'reset' Turkey relations

Erdogan urges Muslims to ‘protect’ Jerusalem

US sanctions protecting Iranian tech sector

Where Afghanistan is heading and what it means for the Arab Gulf

Air strike kills civilians in Syria despite truce

278 Europe-bound migrants rescued off Libya

Beirut, the upcoming start-up hub in MENA region

Cardinal hails 'rebirth' of Iraqi Christian town

Top UN delegation visits crisis-hit Yemen

Trump aide due in Israel to ease holy site tensions

Libya’s coastguard rescues 150 Europe-bound migrants

EU warns Turkey economy at risk in Germany row

Saudi crown prince takes temporary charge

Israel strikes Gaza after missile across border

Hezbollah says fight on Syria border ‘nearing end’

Staff of Turkey opposition paper stand trial

Tehran’s judiciary chief accuses US of jailing innocent Iranians

Palestinian arrested after attack in Tel Aviv

Maghreb future is tied to resolving Western Sahara conflict

MENA countries particularly vulnerable to climate change

UN-backed Libya PM to meet eastern strongman near Paris

Saudi Arabia and allies insist demands non-negotiable as GCC crisis continues

Netanyahu faces mounting pressure over holy site

Two Jordanians killed at Israeli embassy in Amman

Erdogan holds talks with Gulf leaders on Qatar crisis

Arab League accuses Israel of 'playing with fire' at holy site

Erdogan seeks to defuse standoff around Turkey’s Qatar

Syria warplanes strike near Damascus despite ceasefire

US warns Iran over imprisoned Americans

Kuwait protests to Lebanon over Hezbollah training

30 extremists in Sinai operations

Three Palestinians shot dead in Jerusalem

Nearly 360 injured in Turkey by magnitude 6.7 quake

UN says Saudi to blame for deadly Yemen strike on civilians

Police fire tear gas to disperse Morocco protest

Germany reviews arms sales to Turkey

Hezbollah launches Syria border operation

China calls for Gulf crisis talks