European and African Leaders agree migrant evacuation deal

Abidjan – Leaders from the EU and the African Union meeting at a two-day EU-Africa summit have agreed an evacuation plan that will allow migrants to be repatriated from Libya, German government sources said late Wednesday.

The deal was hammered out at an emergency meeting on migrant slave markets in Libya, a topic that has dominated the fifth summit between the European Union and the African Union in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, Abidjan.

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Serraj agreed to give the UN High Commision for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) access to camps in Libya in a bid to help repatriate refugees, the sources said.

“We are going to take action together”

Details of the plan and a timeline for its implementation still have to be worked out.

A CNN report earlier this month cast a spotlight on human rights abuses in Libya by broadcasting footage of African migrants being auctioned off as slaves in the North African country, for as little as 400 dollars.

According to reports, migrants detained in Libya are also being tortured, raped and murdered.

“Around the table this evening I saw the indignation of Africans and Europeans. We are going to take action together,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted late Wednesday.

More than 80 European and African leaders are attending the main two-day, EU-AU summit to talk about migration, security and youth development.

Apart from Macron, Serraj and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the meeting was attended by representatives of Niger, Chad, the United Nations as well as the EU and the African Union.

Merkel urged the AU to engage with all ethnic groups in Libya, as the prime minister does not have control over all areas of the country.

Stronger cooperation needed

In his opening summit speech, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara said the international community needed “at all cost to end the inhumane treatment inflicted onto migrants.”

European Council President Donald Tusk and AU commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat demanded joint action.

“The worst we can do is to start the blame game,” Tusk said. “What we need now are common solutions and stronger cooperation to save lives.”

The EU, AU and UN announced the launch of a joint task force to save and protect migrants, particularly inside Libya.

In close coordination with Libyan authorities, the task force aims to speed up voluntary returns to countries of origin; the resettlement of those in need of international protection; and the dismantling of trafficking and criminal networks, a joint statement read.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari meanwhile vowed to bring home all Nigerian migrants stranded in Libya and other parts of the world.

Another focus of the two-day summit will be on creating better education and economic opportunities for Africa’s rapidly growing population, which is set to more than double to 2.4 billion people by 2050, according to the United Nations.

The EU hopes that economic support to Africa will eventually lower the number of people migrating through the Sahara and across the Mediterranean – considered to be the world’s most dangerous migration route – to Europe.