EU needs Turkish-style migration deal with Libya, says Maltese PM
The European Union needs to reach a deal with Libya to curb the flow of migrants trying to sail on smugglers’ boats to Italy, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on 18 January.
He said it should be along the same lines as an agreement struck with Turkey last year which was instrumental in cutting the number of migrants and refugees reaching Europe to 387,487 from well over a million in 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The treacherous voyage from North Africa to Italy is now the dominant route. The IOM says more than 5,000 people died or went missing while crossing the Mediterranean last year, and at least 219 drowned in the first two weeks of this year alone.
“There is no doubt that unless the essence of the Turkey deal is replicated in the central Mediterranean, Europe will face a major migration crisis,” Muscat told the European Parliament.
Malta holds the EU’s rotating presidency and will host a summit on 3 February to try to agree a plan for averting a spring influx of people embarking from Libya.
Muscat said the priority was “breaking the business model of the criminal gangs making millions of euros out of this inhumane business”.
Under such an agreement, diplomats said migrants could be screened before leaving Libya, in camps run with EU funding by the IOM or the UNHCR. Muscat said the EU could then organise safe passage to Europe for recognised asylum seekers.