EU, Libya pen a deal to stem migrants’ influx and set up refugee camps in Libya

From left: Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel [Yves Herman/Reuters]
The leaders of the European Union have agreed on a controversial plan to help cut off the flow of African migrants from Libya to Europe (Italy in particular) this spring.

At a summit in Malta, the EU leaders on Friday decided to give 200m euro ($215m) to Libya’s Government of National Accord to step up efforts to stop migrant boats in the country’s territorial waters.

Under the plan, the EU will also provide support for the setting up of “safe” refugee camps in Libya and the voluntary repatriation for refugees willing to return to their countries of origin.

It will also boost training and equipment to Libya’s struggling coastguard and get more involved with neighbouring nations, including Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, to contain the flows.

Aid groups, however, accused the EU, whose leaders are under popular pressure to be seen to be controlling immigration, of abandoning humanitarian values and misrepresenting conditions in Libya, where the UN-backed government of Fayez Seraj has only a shaky and partial hold on the country, according to Al-Jazeera.

“Libya is not a safe place and blocking people in the country or returning them to Libya makes a mockery of the EU’s so-called fundamental values of human dignity and rule of law,” said Medecins Sans Frontieres, which works in camps there.

Others warned the deal could result in women and children being returned to inhumane conditions and left vulnerable to rape, beatings and forced labour as well as forcible repatriation to uncertain fates in their home countries.

“Sending children back to a country many have described as a living hell is not a solution,” said Ester Asin of British charity Save the Children, ahead of the approval of the widely-trailed new EU strategy.

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