8 July, 2017, 12:00 am
EU interior ministers on Thursday urged non-governmental organisations rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean work more closely with Libya’s coastguard, amid concerns that their activity is encouraging people to attempt the sea crossing.
Escaping wars and poverty, more than 360,000 refugees and migrants arrived on European shores across the Mediterranean last year. More than 85,000 have reached Italy so far this year.
The European Commission fears that NGOs running rescue services off the Libyan coast are providing a “pull factor”, encouraging migrants to risk their lives in flimsy dinghies in the hope of being picked up and then ferried over to Italy.
Meeting in the Estonian capital Tallinn, the interior ministers agreed to beef up the Libyan coastguard, step up deportations of failed asylum-seekers and fund African countries from which people are fleeing poverty to find work in Europe.
“Of course, we have to help Italy overcome this crisis and all countries have to make efforts to that end,” said Estonian Interior Minister Andres Anvelt, whose country holds the EU’s rotating six-month presidency.
“We have to establish a very clear return policy and deal with the reasons for the migration crisis at their source, that is, in the countries of the refugees’ origin,” he said.