Members of the European Council issued a declaration on Friday following the gathering of 28 leaders of EU countries in Malta the same day.
The leaders unanimously approved a plan that aims to reduce the flow of migrants along the central Mediterranean – a route that 181,000 persons used to arrive in Europe last year – by giving Libyan national coast guard the necessary support including efforts to tackle the smugglers.
The EU will offer the government in Tripoli 200 million euros to prevent mostly African migrants from undertaking the journey, Reuters reported.
Joseph Muscat, the prime minister of Malta, sounded hopeful about the agreement calling it “one first decent shot” to manage the flows of migrants across the sea surrounding his island, located on the by far deadliest route where 4,576 people drowned on their way to Italy last year.
Aid groups, however, immediately vented criticism towards the EU and the plan to close down the Libya-Italy route, saying Libya’s fragile government and the hostile conditions migrants face hampers the plan.
”The EU is misrepresenting the reality on the ground, Libya is not a safe place and blocking people in the country or returning them to Libya makes a mockery of the EU’s so-called fundamental values of human dignity and rule of law,” Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said in a statement.
Iverna McGowan of Amnesty International said in a statement prior to the meeting that the “lack of any tangible details on resettlement or on safeguards for migrants and refugees trapped in an essentially lawless country betrays the mean-spirited intentions behind this cynical proposal.’’
Italy’s Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and his Libyan counterpart Fayez al-Sarraj signed a document, consisting of 8 articles, expecting Italy “to fund development programmes in the areas hit by illegal immigration in various sectors and provide technical support to Libyan entities involved in the struggle against irregularities. Libya will, in turn, control the flows of illegal immigrants,” Italian daily La Repubblica reported.
British Prime Minister Theresa May announced a new £30m British aid package which, amongst things, will provide lifesaving supplies across Eastern Europe as well as support to resettle those who are willing to Asia and Latin America.