EU leaders offer support to Libyan coastguards, Chad and Niger to stem migrant flow at Paris summit
France, Germany, Italy and Spain have offered to support Libyan coastguards and help Chad and Niger with border control to stem migration to Europe at a summit in Paris.
They also agreed on a new policy to grant asylum to vulnerable migrants who apply for protection while in Africa instead of their destination countries.
President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany met with Italian and Spanish leaders as well as those of Chad, Niger and Libya - all three of them transit countries for migrants. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also attended.
In a joint statement, they said that it was "important to equip and train in an adequate manner Libyan coastguards" while emphasising the importance of "protecting human rights" of desperate migrants squeezed into rickety boats in the direction of Italy.
Although the number of migrants reaching Italy from Libya by sea dropped by nearly 70 per cent in July and August compared with the same months last year, it is felt the numbers could easily rise again without further measures.
There has been a small increase in flows from Morocco to Spain.
The four EU leaders also promised to bolster support to Chad and Niger in controlling their borders, "notably in the North with Libya".
Thy acknowledged a need for initiating in Chad and Niger the process of resettling in Europe "particularly vulnerable migrants", and announced they plan to carry out "protection missions" in the African nations in cooperation with the United Nations' refugee and migration agencies.
The process would allow migrants to immigrant legally to Europe if they are on an eligibility list provided by the UN refugee agency and registered with authorities in Niger and Chad.
After the summit, Mrs Merkel said that European countries must clearly define who is in humanitarian need and who is fleeing poverty.
The German leader said it was "very, very important" that the possibility of resettlement is coupled "with an end to illegal migration.".
Europe had a "humanitarian responsibility" to crack down on smugglers who profit from migrants' desperation, she added.
Over the summer, Mr Macron sought to seize the initiative on managing the flow of migrants by creating "hotspots" in African countries to handle asylum requests. NGOs had said the idea that hotspots could be created in the virtually lawless Libya was laughable. Their viability was also questioned by European and African allies and on Monday an official from the Elysee Palace confessed that the idea had been quietly shelved.
Italy has called for the rapid distribution of EU funds already earmarked for Libya.
On Monday, the president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, went further by suggesting the EU give €6 billion to Libya in exchange for the country stopping the migrant flow.
In the long-term, the EU should invest €50-60 billion in Africa in order to develop economies so that people are less likely to want to reach Europe, Mr Tajani said.
"The hotspots announcement was nonsense and neither Chad nor Niger were consulted beforehand," a West African official told Reuters. "Macron is trying to make up for that mistake."
Nearly 120,000 migrants, including refugees, have entered Europe by sea so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration. More than 2,400 have drowned in the process.
Hours before the Paris summit, Mrs Merkel stole a march on Mr Macron by announcing a deal to fight illegal migration with Egypt.
The German Chancellor and French president are vying for leadership on migration as both face decisive battles back home; Mrs Merkel is fighting for re-election while Mr Macron needs to prove he is building a "Europe that protects" a day after a poll suggested a majority of French disapprove of his presidency. Mrs Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said the Egypt deal would "fight illegal immigration and the criminal smuggling of people"
"Together, we will set up a centre for jobs, migration and reintegration", he said. This centre would be in Egypt, a transit country for migrants striving to reach Europe. Read more at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/08/28/eu-leaders-offer-support-liby...