International leaders reject Italy’s migration solution

Refugees | German foreign minister calls plan for migrant camps in Libya inhumane
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 5/03/17, 09:34 am

Germany’s foreign minister on Tuesday said Italy’s deal with Libya to create migrant camps in the crisis-torn country would not help curb migration into Europe.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel delivered his statement during a visit to the African Union headquarters in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

“The camps existing on ground already show horrible and catastrophic conditions,” Gabriel said. “The idea to set up camps in a country like Libya would be in utter disregard to the living circumstances of the people on ground.”

Gabriel recommended the major migrant-producing countries should be stabilized instead. African Union chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat agreed the migrant camps would not stop the flow toward Europe and also called for more financial stability across Africa.

Italy in February signed a deal with Libya’s UN-backed government that included plans for training and equipping coast guards to monitor the migrant flow and battle human traffickers. But Libya’s instability continues to escalate the problem.

The country has two governments battling for legitimacy, as well as other armed groups controlling parts of the country. Some rescued migrants have detailed the inhumane conditions and abuse at detention camps in Libya, while some rights advocates have compared the centers to concentration camps.

Doctors without Borders general director, Arjan Hehenkamp, last month said it was dangerous to think migrants could be housed under humane conditions in Libya.

“It’s simply impossible right now to think Libya can be considered part of the solution,” he said.

The European Union made a deal with Turkey that cut down the number of migrants leaving the country for Greece last year. The blockage increased the number of migrants opting to follow the Libya route for Italy. Virginie Collombier, a researcher with the Middle East directions programs at Italy-based European University Institute, said a similar deal would not work in Libya since the country lacks a central government and other state institutions.

The Tripoli-backed government that made the deal with Italy has no real control over the existing camps, and there’s also a direct connection between criminal networks and some of the armed militia, Collombier said.

“By militarizing the problem, you’re also covering these criminal networks,” Collombier said.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

Read more from this writer