Row over EU refugee policy in Libya

Libya's coastguard has boosted its activities in the Mediterranean and banned NGOs from taking action in Libyan waters, while Italy and the EU had provided them with technical and logistical support. Far fewer migrants have made it to Italy as a result, but NGOs and left-leaning politicians have fiercely criticised the initiative. How should Europe position itself?

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Corriere della Sera (IT) /

The numbers indicate new strategy is right

For Corriere della Sera there are a number of indications that the new refugee policy is working:

“In August 2,859 refugees came to Italy via the Mediterranean route - that's 72 percent less than in the same period last year. … The news that transferring from the smugglers' boats to those of the NGOs is no longer as easy as it was has clearly had a deterrent impact. … More than 5,000 refugees [in Libya's reception centres] have decided to return to their home countries, also due to financial incentives. … Europe has already invested 90 million euros to promote the voluntary return of refugees. … And there are good prospects that more money will be coming. Whether the plan will work out remains to be seen. What is clear now is that the humanitarian disaster in the Mediterranean that many had predicted hasn't occurred.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Europeans must not become accomplices

Le Monde has serious concerns about a refugee agreement with Libya:

“For the moment, the fact that fewer refugees are making it to Europe doesn't mean that those who want to emigrate have changed their minds, but that they are probably stranded in Libya and subject to inhuman conditions. ... Is it possible to outsource the management of migration flows to a country where the state is on the verge of collapse, where migrants are forced into slavery and sexual violence on a large scale, and where the militias sometimes work hand in hand with the smugglers? That's the dilemma the Europeans face. Should we work together with Libya? Yes. But with our eyes wide open, and only provided we can decide how the aid we supply is put to use. So we can avoid becoming accomplices ourselves.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Italy is on the right path

The Italian measures are making a positive impact, De Volkskrant writes approvingly, while warning of the consequences of current refugee policies:

“Even if the Europeans manage to reduce the number of asylum seekers from Africa they mustn't close their eyes to the consequences of their policies there. Europe can't just offload asylum seekers in Libya. The EU hopes to get migration to Europe under control through a series of agreements with African countries. But the migration pressure from Africa can't be relieved simply with boat patrols. … However serious monitoring of borders by the countries bordering the Mediterranean really can have an impact on migration flows. … This is a useful and practical lesson from Italy.”