Italy’s $216m to tackle Africa’s migrants challenge

Italy has set up a fund to help African countries better seal their borders in a bid to keep migrants from boarding deadly rubber boats bound for Europe, its Foreign Minister, Angelino Alfano, said yesterday.
He announced 200-million-euro ($216 million) fund comes two days before European Union (EU) leaders meet in Malta to discuss their plan to stop African immigrants from arriving in Europe.
At the moment, Libya, Tunisia and Niger are the three “strategic” partners for the fund, Alfano said, but Nigeria, Senegal, Egypt and Ethiopia could be future partners.
A record 181,000 migrants reached Italy over the Mediterranean last year, most of them leaving from Libya where people smugglers operate with impunity. More than 5,000 are believed to have died attempting the crossing last year, aid agencies estimate.
“The strategic objective is to help (African countries) control their external borders and to stop departures,” Alfano told reporters in Rome. African countries can request training and equipment to beef up border controls.
Italy has repeatedly criticised the EU response to the migration crisis, in particular the failure to agree between EU states over how to share out those refugees and migrants who make it into the bloc.
All 28 EU states agree, however, on the need to prevent them from coming in the first place and are increasingly offering money and other assistance to countries in the Middle East and North Africa to that end.
The bloc’s executive European Commission last week proposed mobilising a further 200 million euros for projects such as training and equipping the Libyan coast guard and boosting voluntary returns.
European leaders will give such plans a political push on Friday during a meeting in Malta. The bloc is looking at financing camps on the southern shores of the Mediterranean seato house refugees and migrants.

“We haven’t talked about setting up camps in Tunisia or elsewhere. We’re trying to work so that there will be no need for camps,” Alfano said, saying it would be premature to do so in Libya because of the lack of security
The security situation in Libya is extremely poor since the overthrow of the country’s strongman leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. State structures have collapsed and a new, U.N.-backed government in Tripoli does not control its territory.
Militias and people smugglers control the migration routes and the United Nations sounded alarm last year that migrants in Libya suffer consistent and widespread abuse, including arbitrary detention, forced labour, rape and torture.

 The Nation online

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