Italy strikes migrant crisis deal with Libya

Italy and Libya have struck a deal in an effort to stop migrants setting out for Europe from Libyan shores.

After meeting Libyan leader Fayez al-Sarraj in Rome, Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni said the pair had signed a bilateral agreement to increase co-operation and fight migrant trafficking.

Italy has also pledged training and equipment to bolster Libya's coast guard fleet.

The agreement comes a day before the start of a European Union summit, during which leaders will discuss ways to reduce the amount of dangerous journeys migrants take from Libyan shores.


Italy strikes migrant crisis deal with Libya


Image Caption: Fayez al-Sarraj and his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni sign a bilateral agreement

Mr Gentiloni described his deal as "just a piece" of a wider plan that will require EU funding.

He said: "If we want to give real strength and legs to managing migration flows, then there needs to be an economic commitment by the whole of the EU."

Mr Sarraj said he would not allow foreign vessels in Libya's territorial waters unless his state receives aid to build up its navy.

Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini admitted questions over Libya's waters had created a "complicated situation on the ground".

In recent years, Italy's coast guard has coordinated the rescue of hundreds of thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean near Libya.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, at least 5,083 people died in the Mediterranean Sea in 2016.

Ahead of Friday's summit in Malta, European Council President Donald Tusk said clamping down on smuggling rings "is the only way to stop people dying in the desert and at sea".

He said: "(It is) the only way to gain control over migration in Europe. The goal is within our reach.

"Europe should and will stand by Italy in sharing responsibility."



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