President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that France will set up processing centers this summer in Libya for asylum seekers trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean.
“The idea is to create hotspots to avoid people taking crazy risks when they are not all eligible for asylum. We’ll go to them,” he said during a visit to a refugee shelter in central France, adding the plan would be put in place “this summer.”
Macron’s announcement came two days after he brokered talks in Paris between the leaders of the two rival authorities in war-torn Libya, who agreed to a conditional ceasefire and to work towards holding elections next spring.
Libya is the main launchpad for African migrants trying to reach Europe in rickety boats operated by smugglers that frequently sink.
Macron had said Tuesday he hoped the agreement to try to end five years of chaos in Libya would check the flow of migrants.
Since January, more than 100,000 people have made the perilous voyage from Libya, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Over 2,300 have drowned this year attempting to make the journey, the IOM says.
Italy — the EU country closest to North Africa — is the main port of arrival. From there, a fraction push on into France.
EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos has called on EU member states to step up efforts to re-house migrants in Italy, which has complained of a lack of solidarity from its neighbors in dealing with the influx.
A government source said on Thursday Italy intends to deploy several ships in Libyan waters by the end of August to fight human trafficking and stem a flood of immigrants.
A mission plan should be brought to the Cabinet for approval on Friday, and the necessary parliamentary vote to endorse it may be held next week, the source told Reuters.
Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni met with military chiefs and ministers on Thursday to discuss “security, immigration and the Libyan situation”, according to a statement.
He had said on Wednesday Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli had invited Italian warships into its territorial waters.
But Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj denied “having asked Italy to send naval vessels into Libya’s territorial waters… or fighter planes into Libyan airspace.”
“Such allegations… are without any foundation,” Sarraj was quoted as saying in a statement by the GNA. “Libya’s national sovereignty is a red line that nobody must cross.”