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Libya's Sarraj requests more EU support to curb flow of refugees

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM: Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya Fayez Al-Sarraj (L) shakes hands with European Council President Donald Tusk (R) ahead of their meeting in Brussels, Belgium on 2 February 2017. [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM: Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya Fayez Al-Sarraj (L) shakes hands with European Council President Donald Tusk (R) ahead of their meeting in Brussels, Belgium on 2 February 2017. [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]

The head of the UN-backed Libyan government today told top European Union officials the bloc must provide more money and other assistance to secure Tripoli's help in curbing the flow of African migrants to Europe.

Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj was in Brussels on the eve of an EU leaders' meeting in Malta where they will throw political weight behind new efforts to curtail the arrival of refugees and immigrants from Africa, through Libya to Italy.

181,000
Refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean from Africa to get to Europe in 2016

The bloc is stepping up the training of Tripoli's coastguard and offering more money and aid to Libya and other African countries to seal their borders so migrants seeking better lives in Europe do not get through.

But Al-Sarraj, in joint statements with European Council President Donald Tusk who will chair the EU summit in Malta tomorrow, said this was not enough.

"We hope that the EU mechanisms to help Libya will be more practical. We are not going to mention the amount of money … dedicated to Libya for this help because they are very humble, very small amounts," he said.

The EU has not given an overall figure for aid to Libya, but it has seen only a fraction of the maximum of €6 billion ($6.5 billion) pledged last year to Turkey in a deal that slashed arrivals of people from Turkish shores to Greece.

Officials say leaders will pledge a further €200 million ($215 million) but stress that Africa more widely benefits from tens of billions of euros in aid and other support from Europeans – funds the EU increasingly wants directed at projects, ranging from economic development to border control, to curb migration.

Al-Sarraj also suggested he could ask foreign vessels to enter Libya's territorial waters, depending on whether he got aid to build up the navy. For now, an EU mission runs in international waters only, including to intercept smugglers' boats.

The deadly route across the Mediterranean is now the main gateway to Europe, with some 181,000 arrivals in 2016. It is run by smugglers who operate with impunity in Libya, which slid into chaos after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

But getting a migration deal with Libya is difficult.

Al-Sarraj's government is struggling to establish control and is contested by various factions, including by the powerful warlord Khalifa Haftar, who is being courted by Russia – a relationship that EU officials say they find very troubling.

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AfricaEUEurope & RussiaInternational OrganisationsLibyaNews
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