Africa-EU summit struggles with issue of migrants in Libya but leaves many questions unanswered

December 03, 2017
Libyan focus. In the front row (L-R), Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba, Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, France’s President Emmanuel Macron and King of Morocco Mohammed VI talk while they prepare to pose for photographers during the fifth African Union–

London- The issue of migrant abuse in Libya domi­nated discussions at the fifth Africa-EU sum­mit in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, attended by 55 African Union and 28 EU leaders.

The November 29-30 summit, two weeks after CNN aired footage purportedly showing sub-Saharan Africans being auctioned off as slaves near the Libyan capital, involved AU, EU and UN officials agreeing to an emergency plan to dismantle people trafficking net­works and repatriate stranded mi­grants in Libya.
Tripoli bowed to EU and Afri­can leaders’ pressure to do more to stamp out migrant abuse and agreed to identify migrant camps where inhumane practices oc­curred. It said it would allow mi­grants to be evacuated from them within days or weeks, mostly to their home countries.
Since the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, Libya has become a major transit point for sub-Saharan Africans try­ing to reach Europe. Many of the refugees and migrants have been abused by human traffickers.
The influx of migrants into Eu­rope in recent years created the worst migration crisis since the second world war and EU coun­tries are divided as they struggle to deal with it. The fragile security situation in Libya, which has also become a transit hub for terror­ists, is a major concern for Europe.
At the Africa-EU summit’s opening ceremony, Cote d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara de­nounced modern slavery as “a wretched drama that recalls the worst hours of human history.”
“Libya restated its agreement to identify the camps where barbaric scenes have been identified,” said French President Emmanuel Ma­cron following emergency talks between nine EU and African countries on the sidelines of the summit.
“Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj gave his agreement that access be assured,” added Ma­cron. He said that the Internation­al Organisation of Migration (IOM) would receive increased support to help with the repatriation of stranded African migrants who are willing to return to their home countries.
Migrants who are likely to qual­ify for asylum would be sent to Chad or Niger and then relocated to a third country, either in Eu­rope or another region.
Chad, Congo, France, Germany, Italy, Libya, Morocco, Niger and Spain have formed a task force de­signed to crack down on migrant smuggling networks and their fi­nancing and arrest traffickers.
Moroccan King Mohammed VI denounced the mistreatment of migrants in Libya as “despicable acts which are a total denial of hu­manity” and called on Europe to review its migration policy.
“These practices committed by armed militias who are not under the authority of the Libyan gov­ernment are contrary to basic hu­man rights and to the values and traditions of the Libyan people,” he said.
“It is unacceptable that the best African talents, in prestigious schools or working in the conti­nent (Europe), are the target of the European desires, in disregard of the investments of their country of origin in terms of training. The resulting brain haemorrhage is de­plorable,” he said.
King Mohammed VI attended the summit along with represent­atives of the Sahrawi Arab Demo­cratic Republic (SADR), a first since Morocco rejoined the AU in January. Morocco had pulled out of the African bloc 33 years ago in protest of the organisation’s rec­ognition of the SADR.
Beyond its focus on the migra­tion crisis, the summit concentrat­ed on Africa’s long-term economic development with an emphasis on youth issues.
Ouattara called for accelerated and durable economic growth in Africa that could create jobs for young people and for quality edu­cation. He advocated establishing free-trade zones to improve ac­cess to the African and European markets through better regional and continental infrastructure.
AU President Alpha Conde said mobilising young people would require strategic engagement from both the European Union and the African Union. “We have taken note of the outcries of the representatives of the African and European youth in a bid to guar­antee them a better future,” Con­de said.
The European Union is the larg­est investor in and the largest donor to the African continent, a position that could be taken over by China.

The European bloc has set up multibillion-dollar funds to pro­mote Africa’s economic develop­ment and stem migration to Eu­rope. It has also sought to bolster security cooperation with African countries.
European Council President Donald Tusk said: “African securi­ty strengthens European security and vice versa,” adding that both continents have a common goal to shape together a safe and prosper­ous future for their youth.
“Given the challenges we face, some might think we are not go­ing fast enough but we are more than 80 countries and two strong unions. It takes time to discuss things,” he said.