Italy asks EU to preemptively set up refugee camp in Libya

Italy complains of EU’s apathy on migrant flows to its soil and asks 28 member-bloc to set up refugee processing camp in Libya in order to preempt escalating humanitarian crisis

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Sunday that his country will ask the European Union to set up a refugee processing camp in Libya where hundreds of refugees and migrants have been attempting to cross into Italy and then further north to the Western Europe.

Renzi warned EU on increasing humanitarian crisis on Italy’s porous maritime borders and compared EU to a deaf ear to the issue.

Italy has long been struggling with an endless wave of refugee and migrant flows to its shores through boat navigations on the Mediterranean.

Italian coastguards saved 6,000 refugees last weekend, most of them coming from the sub-Saharan African countries, and took them to Italian shores, hereby bringing the year's total of new arrivals in the country to 57,000 people.  

Renzi said the crisis "should not be underestimated" by European countries which generally expel asylum seekers back onto Italian soil. "Let me be clear, Europe's answers so far have not been good enough," Renzi added.

Italian authorities confront a huge problem to accommodate the influx of migrants rescued at sea who have been sheltering to train station in order to access further into Europe.

Italy’s neighbours, including Austria, France and Switzerland have recently tightened border controls in order to prevent migrants and refugees from continuing their intended journeys to the northwestern Europe.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported on Tuesday that almost 103,000 people have risked their lives through boat trips on the Mediterranean Sea this year in order to reach at Europe where the issue of migrants and refugees raised domestic and international concerns.

The EU migrant policies came to fore since refugee boats have been capsizing off around Libya and Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea in the past several years, but the rapid increase in death toll this year brought the issue as an emergent topic to cope with for the sake of the 28-member bloc’s home affairs.

The EU had stopped to fund Italy's Mare Nostrum rescue mission last year which left the country alone with a floating of migrants and refugees who were directly coming from the war-torn or insecure countries of the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

The European Commission has recently proposed an action plan on asylum and immigration which would ensure the burden of 24,000 migrants intake among the EU member states.

The proposed document settles migrant quotas in accordance with the EU countries’ GDP level, population and number of migrants already living in those countries.  

So far almost 10 countries in the EU bloc including the UK, Hungary, Spain as well as France raised their objections to the action plan presented by the Commission.

Italy is hoping a wide consensus in the proposed EU summit on June 25-26 that will go even further to intake refugees who have been living on its soils.

"Redistributing just 24,000 people is almost a provocation. If Europe chooses solidarity, good. If it doesn't, we have Plan B ready. But it would first and foremost hurt Europe," he said, without providing details.

The EU approved last month a mission to tackle with the issue through destroying the migrant boats used for human trafficking in the Mediterranean.

But the UN put its reserves on EU’s decision to submerge vessels because of some humanitarian and military reasons which oblige to get a permission from the UN Security Council.

Renzi stated that Italy wants a long-term solution to the issue with the help of rest of the EU countries which he believes to have to forge repatriation deals with African nations, who currently make up around 60 percent of those arrivals by boat to Italy and Europe.

In an interview with Corriere della Sera daily newspaper, Renzi claimed that the toppling of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 had caused to increase the chaos that opened the way for hundreds of thousands of migrants to cross by boat to southern Italy.

The international migrant organisations and the EU have been blaming mostly Italy and Greece for the increasing trends in migrants and refugees’ risky voyage en route to Europe.

According to the figures released by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), nearly 1800 people lost their lives in the mass drownings and boat capsizes so far this year in the Mediterranean.

Some 800 migrants died in a single boat capsized in April which marked the biggest maritime disaster in the Mediterranean since the Second World War and that sparked the public outrage in Europe and the world.

Upon the increasing tragic incidents this year, the UNHCR expressed its disappointment with the EU’s ignorance of such humanitarian catastrophe and urged Europe to double its search and rescue efforts.

TRTWorld and agencies