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Italy and Libya Talk Migrant Control

(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)

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Migrants, who attempted to flee the Libyan coast to head for Europe, are seen after being detained at the coast guard center in the coastal city of Tripoli, Libya, May 16, 2016.

Italy and Libya were in talks on Tuesday to renew a 2008 accord under which Italy pledged billions of dollars in investment in return for energy contracts and blocking illegal migration from North Africa.

The 2008 accord between the two nations was made between then-Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi and former dictator Muammar Gaddafi before he was killed in the 2011 Libyan revolution which plunged the country into chaos.  

The deal was meant to compensate Libya for the damage Italy inflicted upon the country during its period of colonial rule from 1911 to 1943.

Italy planned at the time to invest $200 million per year in projects including road-building and clearing mines in Libya over 25 years, for a total of $5 billion, reported Reuters.

The complete lack of security in Libya has made it the perfect place for people smugglers to make millions packing people escaping war and poverty into unsafe boats in hopes that they reach European shores.

Renewing the 2008 accord, which was called a “friendship pact” between the two countries, was discussed between Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Siyala and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni in Rome on Tuesday.

A report by Interpol and Europol on Wednesday estimated that 800,000 migrants are currently waiting in Libya to cross into Europe.  

The West has turned its attention to Libya to stop the flow of migrants, fearing that terrorist fighters may try to cross with migrants to enter Europe.

In April, German Chancellor Angela Merkal suggested a collaboration between the EU and Libya similar to the one made with Turkey. In March, Turkey made a deal with the European Union where migrants arriving in Greece would be sent back to Turkey.

While the deal between Turkey and the EU sharply reduced the number of migrants entering Europe from the Aegean Sea, migrants now have their sights on entering Europe via the Mediterranean from Libya.

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On Monday, Libya’s coast guard intercepted a dinghy carrying more than 100 migrants from Africa, and earlier this month more than 100 migrants died in the Mediterranean after the inflatable crafts they were traveling in to get to Europe sank off the Libyan coast in rough seas.

Italy is receiving the largest number of migrants arriving from North Africa via the Mediterranean, with more than 350,000 people reportedly reaching Italy’s shores since 2014.

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