EU prepares for migration wave amid Libya crisis
Migrants and refugees from different African nationalities react on an overcrowded wooden boat, as aid workers of the Spanish NGO Open Arms approach them in the Mediterranean Sea, international waters, off the Libyan coast, Jan. 10, 2020. (AP Photo)
“Being prepared, not acting ad hoc is a very important strands in our thinking for the migration policy,” said Dana Spinant, spokeswoman for the European Union Commission, addressing Anadolu Agency's question on the bloc's extra measures on the possible new wave of immigration from Libya.
“Clearly, this will also need to inspire the discussions that we will have on the future, a European Unionropean pact of migration that we are planning to put on the table soon, which we seek to look at migration from a holistic, comprehensive perspective addressing all important issues,” she added.
Hundreds are fleeing Libya fighting
Almost 1,000 people trying to flee Libya by boat have been intercepted and returned to the conflict-ravaged country by its coast guard during the first two weeks of the new year, the International Organization for Migration said on Jan. 14.
The IOM said at least 953 migrants, including 136 women and 85 children, were plucked from the Mediterranean Sea and that many were returned to the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
They were picked up by the Libyan coast guard, which is trained and funded by the European Union, and one commercial vessel. All were then taken to detention centers, the agency said in a statement.
The IOM said no migrants were returned to Libya during the same two-week period in 2019, but that 23 bodies were recovered from the sea then.
The organization said migrants with whom its staff spoke mostly blamed fighting in and around Tripoli for the hike in departures for European Unionrope.
"Measures to protect lives and guarantee the safety of these people are not in place'' at locations in Libya where migrants are being dropped off, the agency said.
"Alternative solutions that safeguard lives must be found to alleviate the suffering of thousands of men, women, and children who are held in inhumane conditions.''
Libya is run by rival authorities in the east and west vying for power. The east-based government is supported by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia. The western, Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.
The latest round of fighting on the outskirts of Tripoli has threatened to plunge Libya into chaos rivaling the 2011 conflict that ousted and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Russia and Turkey proposed a cease-fire last week in hopes of bringing an end to the north African country's long-running civil war. Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of Libya's U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli, and his rival, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, came to Moscow on Jan. 13 for talks with Russian and Turkish diplomats and military officials.
The talks lasted about seven hours, and Sarraj and Haftar didn't meet directly.
They considered a draft document spelling out details of a truce proposed jointly by Russia and Turkey that began on Jan. 12.
Sarraj signed the draft before departing, while Haftar requested more time to consider it and then left Moscow without signing the document.
On his way back from Moscow, Sarraj made a stop-over in Istanbul where he met with the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, David Satterfield. The U.S. Embassy said they discussed "issues of mutual interest."
Russia has maintained contacts with both conflicting parties in Libya, but the government in Tripoli has recently charged that Russian military contractors were fighting alongside Hifter.
Turkey, in its turn, has sent its military personnel to Libya to support Sarraj's government.