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European-African Summit Discusses Migration Crisis | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A general view shows two of four Libyan Coast Guard ships docked in the harbor of the capital Tripoli, following their return after undergoing maintenance in Italy on May 15, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD TURKIA

Paris- The Elysee Palace hosted on Monday leaders of four European countries – France, Germany, Italy and Spain – and three African countries – Chad, Niger and Libya – to discuss ways to curb the flow of illegal migration.

The Paris meeting aims to “reaffirm Europe’s support for Chad, Niger and Libya on controlling the flow of migrants,” the French presidency said.

Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said in a joint statement with his counterparts from Chad, Niger, Mali and Libya on Monday that the summit “could be the beginning of a new relationship between Europe and Africa.”

The meeting was called by French President Macron, who put forward a proposal he had mentioned last month to establish European screening centers to examine asylum applications in Niger, Chad and Libya. But the young French president’s proposal has received little response.

Europeans hoped to “replicate” their experience with Turkey to stop the flow of Syrian migrants across Greece, including the Balkan corridor and the western and northern European countries.

Therefore, the main purpose of the summit was to find ways to “slow down” the migration stream through a screening process on the African side, to differentiate between refugees entitled to come to Europe and the so-called “economic migrants”, who are undesired in the Old Continent.

Macron proposed last month to set up “hotspots” in Libya, Niger and Chad, where migrants would be screened for their asylum claims before reaching Europe.

However, his proposal was met with little enthusiasm by European and African leaders alike. The most negative response came from Chad Foreign Minister Hussein Ibrahim Taha, who openly stated that his country opposed the French proposal “because it will attract thousands of migrants to our country, and we do not have the capacity to receive them.”

A West African official at the meeting told Reuters: “The hotspots announcement was nonsense and neither Chad nor Niger were consulted beforehand.”

“Macron is trying to make up for that mistake. It will be a meeting on the hotspots and migration in general, but we don’t expect much to come from it,” the official added.

Human rights organizations have also expressed opposition to the proposal, noting that its implementation effectively means revoking the internationally recognized right of immigration. But Elysee sources described the summit “an opportunity to reaffirm Europe’s support” for the three African countries in order to enable them to “control” the migratory streams from and across their territories.

Nearly 120,000 migrants, including refugees, have entered Europe by sea so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration quoted by Reuters. More than 2,400 have drowned while making the dangerous journey, often without enough food or water in overcrowded dinghies run by people smugglers, the agency added.