Published On: Tue, Mar 21st, 2017

In Rome, EU and North African ministers hold ‘migration summit’

EU and North African ministers are to meet in Rome to discuss strategies for curbing the number of migrants coming to Europe. Thousands of people have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean in dangerous boats.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni is to meet with interior ministers from a number of EU countries and from three Northern African states on Monday in Rome.

The interior ministers of Libya, Tunisia and Algeria are to meet with their German, Italian, French, Austrian, Maltese, Slowenian and Swiss counterparts. The EU commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, is also attending.

Italy’s Interior Minister Marco Minniti wants to form a permanent “contact group” between European and North African countries that addresses migration issues. Following the closure of the so-called Balkan route and an EU deal with Turkey, more migrants have attempted the hazardous route from North Africa across the Mediterranean towards Italy.

Thousands of people have drowned in the Mediterranean during their attempt to make it to Europe in small vessels unfit for the high seas.  The Italian news agency Ansa reported on Sunday that a total of 3,315 people had been rescued from the Mediterranean in 25 separate operations over 24 hours.

“After some calm days, migrants are arriving in large numbers, taking advantage of a window of favourable weather,” a coastguard official said.

The French-German “SOS Mediterranee” initiative reported on its website that it had picked up a thousand migrants, including almost 200 children, from nine boats.

The UN migration agency IOM has reported that in 2016 a record number of migrants died at sea or were killed and thousands more were abused. Some 16,000 migrants have already arrived in Italy since the start of the year. That is a rise of about 5,000 compared to the same period last year. Some 520 people are known to have died.

The Italian island of Lampedusa lies 296 kilometers (184 miles, 160 nautical miles) north of Tripoli. Since longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi was ousted and killed in 2011, authorities have struggled to control Libya’s long coastline, leaving sections in the hands of human traffickers.

Police in Sicily said on Saturday they had jailed a 20-year-old Ghanaian who had been identified by several migrants as the man who had raped several women and abused migrants in Libya while they were awaiting passage. The man arrived on Lampedusa on March 5 where he was recognized. He is being investigated for human trafficking, kidnapping, sexual violence, torture and other crimes.

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