Africa on Brussels agenda amid rising migration from Libya to Europe

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By Alasdair Sandford
Africa on Brussels agenda amid rising migration from Libya to Europe

European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday are focusing on events in Africa as part of a general discussion this week on the bloc’s defence and security strategy.

The Chairman of the African Union Commission is among those present.

On the agenda are possible future military missions in North Africa and the Middle East, as well as the security situation in Somalia and South Sudan.

“We are moving from the traditional purely aid centred approach to Africa to real partnership in all fields, from climate change to security, economic development, migration and obviously humanitarian support,” said Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs.

The number of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean is again on the rise. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says more than 45,000 people have reached Italy by boat from North Africa, an increase of over 40 percent on the same period of 2016. More than 1,200 are said to have died on the way.

Italy’s coast guard said rescuers saved 484 migrants in the sea on Saturday and found the bodies of seven men who had died trying to get to Europe.

Italy and Germany have asked the EU for a mission to be sent to Libya’s southern border which many people cross on their way north. The countries’ interior ministers, Marco Minniti and Thomas de Maziere, sent a joint letter on Friday to the EU seeking a greater EU commitment to help stabilise the 5,000-kilometre frontier which Libya has long struggled to control.

A senior official in the United Nations-backed Libyan government in Tripoli said on Sunday his administration was ready to create a new guard to patrol frontier, but it could only be secured if other countries helped.

“If we don’t resolve southern Libya’s problems, we will not resolve the migrant issue,” Abdudsalam Kajman, the government’s vice-president, told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper.

“The difficult economic situation in that region pushes lots of young people to work for the traffickers,” he added.