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Europe-Africa summit aims for evacuation of 3,800 migrants risking abuse

There are estimates of 400,000 to 700,000 African migrants in Libya

By AFP - Nov 30,2017 - Last updated at Nov 30,2017

Leaders gather for the family photo during the 5th African Union-European Union (AU-EU) summit in Abidjan, on Tuesday (AFP photo)

ABIDJAN — Leaders at an EU-Africa summit called Thursday for the immediate evacuation of nearly 4,000 distressed African migrants in Libya under a new drive to fight slave traders and traffickers.

Wrapping up a two-day summit in Ivory Coast’s economic capital, a top African Union (AU) official said there could be as many as 700,000 Africans stranded in Libya, where many have suffered atrocities and even been sold into slavery.

He said a fact-finding mission had seen one camp in Tripoli where all the residents, numbering several thousand, were “living in inhumane conditions” and were desperate to return home.

“We have agreed, along with the EU and the UN, to set up a task force for repatriating at least 3,800 people,” Moussa Faki Mahamat, head of the AU Commission, told reporters.

“But it’s just one camp... the Libyan government tells us that there are 42 in all. There are definitely more than that. There are estimates of 400,000 to 700,000 African migrants in Libya.”

 The summit, gathering more than 80 nations of the African Union and European Union (EU), had been showcased as a bid to boost development in Africa as it faces a population crunch.

But it was largely overshadowed by shock TV footage of black Africans sold as slaves in Libya, prompting protests in many countries and demands for action.

Closing the summit, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara said the “inhumane treatment of migrants” required responses that “match our condemnation”.

He called on humanitarian aid, new efforts to fight human trafficking, and solutions for the poverty that prompted so many young Africans to risk the trek to Europe in search of a better life.

‘Step in right direction’ 

 

In a meeting late Wednesday, the leaders of Libya, France, Germany, Chad, Niger and four other countries agreed on a plan to allow migrants facing abuse in Libyan detention camps to be evacuated within days or weeks, mostly to their home countries.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who called the slave trading a crime against humanity, said Libya agreed to allow access to the camps “where scenes of barbarism” had occurred and have them repatriated.

They also offered increased support for the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) to help those who want to return to their home countries, said Macron, who called the emergency meeting.

In some cases they could be given asylum in Europe, he added.

IOM Europe Director Eugenio Ambrosi told AFP that the new campaign was a “step in the right direction”, although he said slave trading and other abuses also happened outside government control. 

The agency, he said, could repatriate all 15,000 economic migrants in the Libyan government-controlled camps within two months if their home governments swiftly provided proper documents enabling them to travel. 

EU sources earlier said UN humanitarian agencies like the IOM had arranged for some 13,000 migrants to return voluntarily to their home countries mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa in the last year after a deal with Libya.

The group also decided to work with a task force, involving the sharing of police and intelligence services, to “dismantle the networks and their financing and detain traffickers”, Macron said.

The AU, EU and UN officials also pledged to freeze the assets of identified traffickers while the AU will set up an investigative panel and the UN could take cases before the International Court of Justice, he added.

Faki said money was stored away in banks in Europe and the Middle East, including Dubai.

 

Migration crisis 

 

The uproar over slavery came after US network CNN two weeks earlier aired footage from Libya of black Africans being sold.

AU and other critics have accused the EU of creating conditions for the slave trade as well as rape and torture of migrants by encouraging Libya’s Government of National Accord, which is UN-backed, to detain migrants and stop them from coming to Europe.

The EU, which said migrant abuses existed before its cooperation with Libya, has been desperate to ease the worst migration crisis since World War II, with more than 1.5 million migrants entering the bloc since 2015.

In his speech to the summit on Wednesday, European Council President Donald Tusk acknowledged the “horrifying” treatment of young Africans.

But he also warned against starting “a blame game” and called for cooperation to fight criminals.

EU officials said the migrant influx, which has deepened political divisions across the EU, as well as frequent Islamist attacks in Europe have been a wake-up call to tackle the root causes of why people leave their homes.

The EU has already set up multi-billion-euro funds to promote Africa’s economic development while deepening counter-terrorism cooperation with African countries where Islamist militant groups are spreading.

The summit worked on ways to promote stability and long-term economic growth for a continent likely to have 2.4 billion people by 2050, more than double what it is now.

 

Without fast-tracked development, millions could flee to Europe or turn to radical Islamist groups, EU and African leaders warn.

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Comments

MY DEAR PAUL, THE ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION IS THAT NO ONE WILL SELL ANY GOOD OR SLAVE IF THERE ARE NO BAYERS AND NO MARKET IS CREATED FOR IT BY CREATING VACCUM FOR CHAOS AND ANARCHY. WHAT HAPPENED IN IRAQ?. AND SO, MY FRIEND PAUL SHOULD GO AND RE-VIST THE AFRICAN HISTORY. DURING THE FALL OF GHANA EMPIRE, THE CAUSE WAS GOLD TRADE; THAT OF THE SONGHAI EMPIRE WAS DUE TO THE DEATH OF ASKIA TURE AND YOU MAY GO BACK AND TRACE THE HISTORY OF AFRICAN UP TO DEATH, IN EACH CASE CHAOS AND ANARCHY WAS THE PRIMARY CAUSES OF DECLINE, FALL AND ECONOMIC BLUNDERS. TELL THE TRUTH AND SAVE THE WORLD.

Dr Samuel - these are Sub-Saharan African migrants who have paid criminal gangs to get them to Libya - how is your comment relevant to this article?

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE AND THE PEOPLE WHO CREATED THIS VACCUM AND MESS SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR IT. WHEN YOU GO AND DESTROY AN OTHERWISE A STABLE COUNTRY, KILL THEIR LEADER AND CREATE CHAOS, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR IT. I DO BELEIVE IN GEN. POWELLS DOCTRINE, IF YOU BREAK IT, YOU OWN IT. SOME ONE SHOULD BE SENT TO THE INTERNATIONAL COURT TO STAND TRIAL. I DO NOT BY ANY MEANS, SUPPORT NOR COULD I LIVE UNDER THE DEPOSED STRONG MAN BUT HE KEEPT THE COUNTRY TOGETHER, STABLE AND PROSPEROUS EVENTHOUGH HE WAS A DICTETOR.

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