EU-Africa summit host demands swift steps on migrant slavery
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara opened a Europe-Africa summit on Wednesday calling for "all urgent measures" to end migrant abuses, including slave trading in Libya.
The slavery revelations are casting a shadow over the Abidjan summit, which both sides hope will launch a deeper partnership to create jobs for Africa's exploding population while reducing mass migration and terrorism.
"Given this wretched drama which recalls the worst hours of human history, I would like to appeal to our sense of responsibility to take all urgent measures to put an end to this practice, which belongs to another age," Ouattara told the summit.
He specifically referred to the "sad" migrant situation in Libya as he opened the gathering of 55 African Union and 28 European Union nations.
The summit in the Ivorian economic capital comes just two weeks after CNN broadcast footage of black Africans sold as slaves in Libya, sparking outrage, including protests in African and European capitals.
AU and other critics have accused the EU of creating conditions for the slave trade and other abuses with its policy of encouraging Libya's UN-backed GNA, Government of National Accord, to detain migrants and stop them from coming to Europe.
The EU has been desperate to ease the worst migration crisis since World War II, with more than 1.5 million migrants entering the bloc since 2015.
Millions of Africans have been on the move within the continent to seek jobs or flee conflict but also across the Mediterranean, mainly via Libya to Italy.
The EU this year began to reduce the flow through cooperation with the Libyan authorities following a more comprehensive deal with Turkey, which has sharply cut the flow of those fleeing the Middle East to Greece.
EU officials said the migrant influx, which sparked political divisions across the EU, as well as frequent Islamist attacks in Europe have been a wake-up call to tackle the causes of why people leave their homes.
The EU has already set up multi-billion-euro (-dollar) funds to promote Africa's economic development while deepening counter-terrorism cooperation with African countries where Islamist militant groups are spreading.
Both sides are now calling for more resources for economic development, including for education.