EU backs Libyan efforts to curb African migration

European Union leaders offer Tripoli more money and other assistance to beef up its frontier controls.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Maltese and European Union flags fly outside the Grand Master's Palace on the eve of the EU leaders summit in Valletta, Malta, February 2, 2017.

European Union leaders placed a bet on the Libyan government on Friday to help them prevent a new wave of migrants this spring, offering Tripoli more money and other assistance to beef up its frontier controls.

The leaders met in Malta mainly to discuss ways to curb the flow of migrants from Africa to Europe. They also addressed legal and moral concerns about having Libyan coast guards force people ashore by pledging to improve conditions in migrant camps there. 

The meeting comes amid signs of a new surge in people attempting to make the sea crossing from Libya to Italy.

The route has become the most pressing problem, after the EU cut sea crossings from Turkey to Greece by 98 percent following a deal with Ankara.

Most of the 181,000 people who came via Libya in 2016 were illegal economic migrants, unlike the asylum seekers arriving in Greece from Syria, the EU says.

TRT World's Sarah Morice has more from Valletta on the summit's goals.

UK to miss Brexit discussion

British Prime Minister Theresa May will miss the second part of the summit when the other 27 leaders will discuss the way ahead after the Brexit, including a flagship summit in Rome in March to mark the EU's 60th anniversary.

May is likely to brief her 27 peers on her meeting last week with US President Donald Trump, whose backing for the Brexit, doubts on free trade, barring of refugees and warmth toward Russia all raise alarm in Europe.

Summit Chair Donald Tusk warned this week that Trump was a "threat" to the EU, along with Russian aggression, an increasingly assertive China and domestic populism.

Tusk said those factors "as well as worrying declarations by the new American administration all make our future highly unpredictable."

But Tusk also echoed what many EU leaders have said -- that Trump is a chance for a Europe to finally unify after Brexit and the eurozone crisis, and perhaps even take Washington's place in global politics and trade.

TRTWorld and agencies