The top EU diplomat Federica Mogherini pledged to clear the detention camps in Libya in two months.
Speaking to European Parliament on Tuesday, March 13 about the currently negotiated UN Global migration compact she said the EU, the UN and the African Union succeeded to bring out of the camps 16 000 people in just two months, leaving there no more than 5000 people.
I believe we can make it and empty them completely, within, at maximum, the coming next couple of months”, Mogherini told Parliament in Strasbourg.
The problems however seem to have moved to the neighbouring countries of Niger, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.
In two months we managed to achieve more than in than in the previous year and already in 2017, the results were ten times better the previous year”, Mogherini said adding the success is a result of an effort on a “global scale”.
The optimism expressed by the EU top diplomat is supported in part by the recent analysis of the European border and coast guard agency Frontex which detected a “sudden reversal in the numbers of irregular migrants detected in the Central Mediterranean in July 2017”. The agency calls it “the most significant development at the EU’s external borders since the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement” in 2015. According to data analysed by Frontex in its risk report for 2018, since July the number of illegal crossings has dropped suddenly to less than half of the June levels and the tendency continued throughout the rest of the year. The Agency attributes the decrease to the internal political reshuffle in Libya. However, according to the EU interior ministers who gathered this week in Brussels the situation in the country remains fragile and a lot of work still needs to be done.
The problem partially “migrated” to Niger
The EU is concerned by the lack of progress with the evacuation of refugees from Libya to Niger. The country unilaterally suspended the reception of migrants from Libya due to their slow resettlement form there to Europe or back to their countries of origin. In November 2017 Niger had agreed to take refuges from Libya as a temporary measure, while EU countries such as France, Germany, Sweden and others review their asylum applications. Those refused asylum would have to be resettled back to their countries of origin. As both processes are proceeding slowly Niger has stopped accepting more refugees from Libya.
To prevent a worsening of the situation in the region, the European commissioner on migration Dimitris Avramopoulos is flying Thursday, March 15 to Niger’s capital Niamey for meetings with political leaders.
I will be meeting politicians and leaders from all neighbouring countries to try to find a solution”, Avramopoulos told journalists.
A new shift in migratory routes
The decrease in the number boat crossings from the Libyan coast is largely offset by a substantial increase of migrants transferred to Europe from Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
Frontex claims the two developments are unrelated and the boats are not filled with migrants from Africa as before, but with Algerian, Tunisians and Moroccans, looking for better economic chances.
“The Western Mediterranean route hit a new record high in 2017, more than doubling the previous record of last year”, Frontex annual risk report says. The EU agency notes that the change of the most frequented routes goes hand in hand with a change of demographics, with more migrants coming from the Maghreb countries than from Eastern Africa which dominated the flows in 2016. “The numbers of Eritreans, Somalis and Ethiopians fell to roughly a forth of their 2016 levels”, the report idocuments
Urgent funds needed
Finding solutions to the latest developments is further hampered by the insufficient funds available. The EU is still missing sufficient funds for its work in Africa and the Commission is planning to raise the issue to the European leaders who are gathering in Brussels on March 22-23 in Brussels. At least EUR 230 million are urgently needed to continue projects in the countries which are the main source or transit routes of illegal migrants to Europe, the European Commission said.