France will start processing asylum seekers’ applications in Libya as of this summer as part of measures to prevent illegal migrants from making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.
The new measure was announced by French President Emmanuel Macron last week following talks with rival Libyan political heads Fayez Al-Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar.
Macron explained during a visit to a refugee shelter in central France.
Libya has become the main point of departure for thousands of refugees and migrants hoping to reach Europe. As a result, thousands have died in the Mediterranean while riding dodgy boats or rubber dinghies provided by people smugglers.
Migrant smugglers have taken advantage of the lawlessness in Libya to charge desperate people thousands to make the dangerous journey despite the risks.
Around 100,000 migrants have already reached Europe’s coasts so far this year while over 2,000 have reportedly drowned at sea, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
Italy has called on European states to do more as it hosts large numbers of migrants and refugees that reach its shores hoping to continue their journey further into Europe.
Rome reportedly expressed a desire to send ships into Libyan territorial waters which Al-Sarraj denied last week to having invited.
“What was agreed with Italy was the completion of the programme supporting the coast guards to train and prepare them with armed capabilities and equipment for saving lives of migrants, and to confront criminal organisations,” a statement from his office said.
Emmanuel Macron says France will set up refugee ‘hot spots’ in Libya
By James Masters, CNN
France has announced its intention to set up “hot spots” in Libya to process refugee claims and help deter people from attempting the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean.
Speaking at a naturalization ceremony in the French city of Orleans on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron said the move would stop people who are ineligible for asylum from taking “crazy risks.”
According to the UN’s refugee agency, there were an estimated 660,000 “people of concern” — refugees and internally displaced people — living in Libya at the end of 2016.
Mayor of Orleans Olivier Carre (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron (C) pose for a group photo with people who received French citizenship.
“We’ll go get them ourselves,” Macron said. “I intend to do this as soon as this summer.”
“The other European countries are very reluctant. We will try to do it with Europe, but France will do it.”
“The aim is to ensure pre-processing of requests, rather than letting people cross the Mediterranean at the risk of their lives,” he explained.
According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 100,000 people have made the trip from Libya to Europe since January.
More than 2,300 people have drowned while attempting to make the journey this year, according to figures provided by the IOM.