Italian patrol boats arrive in Libya to limit flow of migrants

The aim of Italian patrol boats is to keep tabs on the flow of migrants under a controversial plan agreed by leaders of the European Union in February.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A Libyan coastguard stands on a boat during the rescue of 147 illegal immigrants attempting to reach Europe off the coastal town of Zawiyah, 45 km west of the capital Tripoli, on June 27, 2017.

Leaders of the European Union agreed to a controversial plan in February to stem the flow of migrants travelling to Europe.

Under the agreement, the EU leaders decided to give €200m ($215m) to Libya's fragile government to increase efforts to stop migrant boats within the country's territorial waters.

The EU also decided to provide support for the setting up of safe refugee camps in Libya.

Human rights groups raised concern at the plan, as the UN-backed government in Libya has limited control over its territory.

Now Italian patrol boats have arrived in Tripoli to try to enforce the limits.

But, some Libyans believe the EU needs to do more.

TRT World ’s Abu Bakr Al Shamahi reports.

Flow of migrants on the rise - UNHCR

In recent years, the number of people crossing the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa to southern Europe has increased, a report by UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) showed.

The indications are that this trend is likely to continue, along with the deadly risks, the report said.

This year alone, at least 2,030 people died or have gone missing on the voyage, with the greatest number of fatalities occurring along the so-called Central Mediterranean Route, through Libya.

It says almost all refugees and migrants coming to Libya irregularly seek the help of smugglers or criminal networks, who now charge fees of around $5,000, just to reach the country.

With higher fees and greater volume, the smuggling industry has grown increasingly professional.

Austria steps up security on its border with Italy

Austria has moved four armoured vehicles close to its border with Italy to guard against migrants and will likely set up controls on a key trade crossing "very soon," defence ministry officials said on Tuesday.

"I expect border controls will be introduced very soon," Defence Minister Peter Doskozil said in an interview on Tuesday.

The planned controls will include the busy Alpine Brenner pass, a defence ministry spokesperson said, a move that Italy warned last year would break EU rules on free movement.

There was no immediate comment from Italy or EU officials.

Doskozil's spokesman said there was no concrete timetable for the new controls.

TRT World spoke to Andrei Zolofotov who is following the developments from Vienna.

Italy has taken in more than 80,000 refugees and migrants so far this year, most of whom arrived by boat from Africa, making Italy the main point of entry to Europe.

TRTWorld and agencies