EU Meeting to Tackle Mediterranean Migration

EU leaders are gathering in Malta to discuss aid and training for North African countries in an effort to stem Mediterranean migration. Some 90 percent of Europe’s arrivals (EU Observer) now come along the Libya-Italy route, which brought more than 181,000 migrants and refugees to Europe last year and saw more than 4,500 drown en route. European leaders are expected to discuss support for training the Libyan coast guard (BBC) and efforts to fight human smugglers. UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who came to power following a June referendum calling for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, is expected to tell the summit that Britain will continue to be a “reliable” partner (Guardian) in addressing Mediterranean migration.


“The EU rightly spoke out against Donald Trump’s entry ban on asylum seekers from Syria. But its own track record leaves much to be desired. . . . Only around 10,000 people have been relocated from Italy and Greece to other EU states. The two-year scheme, which ends in September, had called for 160,000. Many more have been kicked out. Almost 11,000 people were sent home last year, a four-fold increase compared with 2015 when 3,565 migrants were returned in 66 operations. Both EU commission and member states now appear to oppose issuing humanitarian visas for people in need,” Nikolaj Nielsen writes for the EU Observer.

“Libya is in the midst of a civil war, with three rival ‘governments’ competing for control of law enforcement bodies. Even with the help of UNHCR/IOM officials, it is madness to expect Libya to be able to implement the EU’s plans. The EU has already made this mistake when deciding to extend Operation Sophia (the anti-smuggling operation in the Mediterranean) to Libyan waters, upon approval of the Libyan government. Unsurprisingly, the approval never came. As such, rather than being resettled in Libya or repatriated to their countries of origin, it is far more likely that migrants brought back to Libya will end up in detention centres,” Mattia Toaldo writes for the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“Having cemented Russia’s role as the dominant belligerent against a pro-Western Ukraine, where the half-frozen conflict in the east has flared up in the past week, and in Syria where a fragile ceasefire has taken hold with Moscow’s ally Bashar al-Assad still in power, President Vladimir Putin has turned his attention to Libya. For Europe, this raises the worrying prospect that Russia could gain control over the flow of migrants across the central Mediterranean, giving Putin leverage to destabilize Europe by unleashing a flood of refugees like the exodus from Syria that caused a crisis in Europe in 2015,” Jacopo Barigazzi and David M. Herszenhorn write for Politico Europe.