Italy denies reports that Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block refugees

Migrants arrive at a naval base after being rescued by Libyan coast guards in Tripoli, Libya June 29, 2018. [Photo: Reuters]

Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office denied a media report on Tuesday that Italy was proposing that the European Union should pay Libya to stop migrants leaving its shores for Europe.

Draghi favours the EU offering financial assistance to all African countries involved in migration to Europe, an official in Draghi’s office told Reuters.

But the official denied a report by La Repubblica newspaper that Draghi wanted to propose at a May 24 summit that the EU make a deal similar to one reached with Ankara in 2016, under which Turkey is entitled to financial aid in exchange for hosting refugees who try to reach Europe via the Balkans.

“At the moment there is no initiative regarding creating a similar deal to what was done with Turkey,” the official said.

“The government’s position is that the EU must pay more attention to the situation in the southern Mediterranean and be ready to offer financial help to all African countries involved in migrant flows.”

Some 13,000 migrants have landed on Italy’s coast this year, about three times as many as in the same period last year, according to interior ministry data.

More than 2,000 have since Sunday reached the island of Lampedusa, the initial arrival point for many people trying to get to Europe from Africa.

The migrants, arriving on small and perilous boats run by people-traffickers, are being transferred elsewhere in Italy.

The vast majority of African migrants heading for Europe by sea depart from Libya.

In 2019, Rome agreed a plan with other European states to redistribute migrants after they arrived, but the scheme was voluntary and has not provided a stable solution.

On Tuesday, the executive European Commission said it had received no offers from member states to accept migrants from Italy.

The migration issue has fuelled the rise of anti-immigration parties across Europe. In Italy, the right-wing League is part of Draghi’s national unity government and wants action.

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