France an­nounces plan to vet asy­lum-seek­ers in Libya

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - World - WORLD 18 WORLD 19

FRANCE will set up pro­cess­ing cen­tres in Libya for asy­lum seek­ers try­ing to reach Europe across the Mediter­ranean, Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron an­nounced yes­ter­day.

“The idea is to cre­ate hotspots to avoid peo­ple tak­ing crazy risks when they are not all el­i­gi­ble for asy­lum. We’ll go to them,” Macron said dur­ing a visit to a refugee shel­ter in cen­tral France, adding the plan would be put in place “this sum­mer”, with or without other EU coun­tries.

But of­fi­cials in the French pres­i­dency cast doubt on whether the cen­tres could be es­tab­lished that quickly, say­ing the se­cu­rity con­di­tions were “not yet in place”.

Law­less Libya is the main launch­pad for African mi­grants try­ing to reach Europe across the Mediter­ranean in rick­ety boats op­er­ated by smug­glers that fre­quently sink.

Macron’s an­nounce­ment came two days af­ter he bro­kered talks in Paris be­tween the lead­ers of the two ri­val au­thor­i­ties in the war-torn coun­try, who com­mit­ted to a con­di­tional cease­fire.

Pre­sent­ing the agree­ment, Macron said he hoped a re­turn to stability in Libya would check the out­flow of mi­grants.

Since Jan­uary, more than 100,000 peo­ple have made the per­ilous voy­age across the wa­ter, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion. Over 2,300 have drowned this year in the at­tempt.

The vast ma­jor­ity land in Italy – the EU coun­try clos­est to north Africa – which has com­plained of a lack of sol­i­dar­ity from its neigh­bours in deal­ing with the influx.

Macron said he would send of­fi­cials from the French asy­lum bureau to help out in Italy. “I am also ready to send some to Libya,” he said, adding he was ready to go it alone, if nec­es­sary.

“Other Euro­pean coun­tries are very ret­i­cent. We’ll try to do it with Europe but we in France will do it,” he in­sisted.

The plan ap­peared to take the EU by sur­prise but Euro­pean Commission spokes­woman Natasha Ber­taud said the bloc was “open to dis­cussing with any and all of our mem­ber states” ways to im­prove the sit­u­a­tion in the Mediter­ranean.

France’s new leader has taken an am­biva­lent line on mi­gra­tion.

Dur­ing his cam­paign he was ful­some in his praise of Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s open-door pol­icy but his gov­ern­ment has taken a hard line with young mi­grants sleep­ing rough on the streets of the north­ern French port of Calais.

Rights groups have com­plained that riot po­lice rou­tinely use tear gas and pep­per spray to break up the mi­grants’ camps.

At the shel­ter in the cen­tral city of Or­leans, where Macron met two fam­i­lies – one from Syria and an­other from Repub­lic of Congo – Macron adopted a more com­pas­sion­ate tone.

“We have be­tween 800,000 and a mil­lion peo­ple in Libya – in camps, hangars, there’s not even a min­i­mum of hu­man­ity,” he said.

He also made it his mis­sion to find “dig­ni­fied” ac­com­mo­da­tion for those who made it to France.

“I want no one in the streets or in the forests by the end of the year,” he said.

But he also warned that those who were flee­ing poverty, rather than war or per­se­cu­tion, faced dis­ap­point­ment.

“No coun­try can take all the eco­nomic mi­grants,” he said. – AFP

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