22 October, 2016, 12:00 am
BRUSSELS – EU leaders agreed yesterday to step up their efforts to curb illegal migration from African countries with the aim of replicating their success in halting inflows from Turkey over the past year.
While migrants reaching Greece from Turkey have dropped to a trickle after a deal with Ankara in March, arrivals in Italy from Africa are increasing so far this year.
Italy received 154,000 migrants last year and this year’s figure is likely to be higher. Only yesterday, about 1400 boat migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya, Italy’s coastguard said in a statement.
To curb flows along the so-called central Mediterranean route, where thousands of migrants drown every year as they make the dangerous journey, the EU is offering trade deals and investment to African countries.
“It is not just about money, it is about substantially improving the capabilities and the chances of people in these African countries and to give hope,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on her arrival to the EU summit in Brussels.
In exchange for financial support EU leaders require their African partners to impose tighter border controls and to take back illegal migrants.