Macron ambitious on Libya crisis

Macron ambitious on Libya crisis

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced his intention to set-up “hotspots” to handle asylum applications in Libya. 

He said the plan could deter migrants from taking “crazy risks” by trying to cross the Mediterranean.

Macron was speaking at a refugee centre in Orleans last week during a citizenship ceremony.

“The idea is to create hotspots in Libya so people avoid taking crazy risks when they are not eligible for asylum. We’ll go to get them,” Macron told the event.

The new president said that for many Europe “from the start is impossible to attain”. “I hope that the European Union, and at least France, will be able to treat asylum seekers as close to their country of origin as possible.

“As I speak to you, between 800,000 and one million women and men are waiting in camps in Libya.”

But he said no missions could be established in war-torn Libya until the security conditions improved.

A Macron source apparently said other centres could be established in neighbouring Niger and Chad, apparently to be overseen by French and international organisations.

A report by the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, estimated 90 per cent of the 181,400 people who illegally reached Italy by sea in 2016, left from Libya.

By mid-May this year, a 30-per-cent increase in arrivals from the same period in 2016 had already been reported.

In April this year it was reported that more than 531,000 “people of concern”, including refugees, were estimated to be living in Libya.

Macron’s election was widely cheered in Italy as a way to deepen and reinvigorate EU integration. Traditionally pro-EU Italy has experienced a rise in populist and Eurosceptic movements, such as the Five Star Movement and the Northern League. With a general election due in less than 12 months, pro-EU centrists hoped they could emulate Macron’s success.

Nicola Danti, a socialist member of the European Parliament for Tuscany, posted a list of his disappointments with Macron on Facebook.

He mentioned Macron’s Bastille Day meeting with Donald Trump in Paris and the “theatrical coup” of Macron’s summit with Libyan leaders, seen as undermining Italy’s traditional diplomatic role in its former colony. He criticised the decision to nationalise the STX shipyard in western France to avoid a takeover by Italy’s Fincantieri.

“Instead of a new Schuman [one of post-1945 Europe’s founding fathers], we are facing a little De Gaulle,” said Danti, a member of the socialist group in the parliament and of the ruling Democratic Party in Italy.


Migrants from Libya meet a Maltese patrol vessel. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

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