EU chiefs asks for cash for African refugee holding camps

EUROPEAN Union foreign policy head Federica Mogherini urged EU member states today to support an Africa trust fund financially as a prelude to the bloc setting up refugee screening centres in Africa.

She said that the fund “has proven to be useful, it has brought results and this is why we are asking for more money from member states.”

EU leaders are set to approve plans on Thursday to screen migrants for eligibility as asylum-seekers at centres in six African countries — Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia.

The plans mirror a shabby deal cooked up with Turkey in 2015 aimed at employing Ankara as a Fortress Europe border guard to stop refugees reaching the Greek islands.

That deal has cost more than €3 billion (£2.6 billion) so far.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini descended on Tripoli today to tell Ahmed Maiteeq, the deputy prime minister of the UN-backed Libyan government, that he wants to help Libya stem the flow of migrants and develop itself commercially.

He thinks the EU should view Libya as a “great opportunity” and not a problem, insisting that asylum identification centres for refugees must be located at Libya’s southern borders — not in Europe, as France initially proposed.

The leader of Italy’s far-right League vowed to help Libyan authorities assume control over Libyan territory, including its territorial waters, to prevent migrants leaving.

Mr Maiteeq announced that the Libyan coastguard had rescued 1,000 migrants yesterday, including dozens of women and children in several different rescues.
All were given humanitarian and medical aid and taken to a naval base in Tripoli and a refugee camp in the town of Khoms, he said.

Mr Maiteeq urged European states, especially Italy, to help his country, saying: “European participation should be through a training programme.”

Human rights organisations have criticised Italy’s existing practice of assisting the Libya coastguard to patrol its coasts and bring back migrants launched from its shores.

They point out that Libya hardly constitutes a “safe” port of call, as called for by international law.

EU member states will hold a summit to discuss immigration this Thursday.