Thursday, January 17, 2019
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Africa, EU must co-operate to end migrant abuse

Africa, EU migrants co-operationEurope and Africa have joint responsibility for making migration more humane and orderly so they can end abuses committed against African migrants by people smugglers, European Council President Donald Tusk said.

He was speaking at a two-day Africa-European Union summit meant to focus on development and investment in youth, but inevitably overshadowed by the migrant crisis.

Reports this month of white Libyan slave traders selling black African migrants at markets in Libya - a grim echo of the trans-Saharan slave trade in centuries past - have drawn worldwide horror.

The outcry threatened to put migration at the top of the summit agenda and shine a light on a thorny issue for European leaders faced with a surge in far-right, anti-immigration parties at home.

“It is clear migration is a joint responsibility. It is in all our interests to have orderly migration that is more controlled, more humane and sustainable,” Tusk said.

“Recent reports about the treatment of Africans - especially young people - by smugglers and traffickers are horrifying,” he said adding 5,000 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean last year.

Soon after CNN aired grainy images from Libya appearing to show migrants being sold as slaves, African governments began recalling diplomats from Tripoli.

Protests erupted in France, Senegal and Benin. Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara called for Libyan slave traders to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.

“Let’s work together to bring more humane solutions to this migration crisis that taints relations between the North and the South,” said Guinea’s president, Alpha Conde, chairman of the African Union.

Libya promised to investigate the reports, but many African citizens blame European policies for abuses along the migrant trail.

“The worst we can do is to start the blame game. What we need are common solutions and stronger co-operation to save lives, protect people,” Tusk said. “Our common duty is to step up the fight against these unscrupulous criminals.”

European leaders - including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, who head the Franco-German axis at the heart of the EU - are hamstrung by electorates increasingly anti-immigration.

Despite pressure at home, Merkel highlighted the need to create legal avenues for migration.

Gunter Nooke, her special envoy for Africa, told Reuters that alone would not solve the problem. “There we talk about thousands, tens of thousands. But with illegal migration we talk about millions.”

He added no country is going to allow hundreds of thousands of students in from developing nations unless they can be sure most will go back within four years, which rarely happened.

In a joint statement, the United Nations, African Union and European Union announced the creation of a joint task force “to save and protect lives of migrants and refugees along the routes and in particular inside Libya,” and to speed up returning migrants to countries of origin.

European and African leaders met to discuss reports of slavery in Libya and the migrant crisis.

“We must not only denounce it, we must act, by collectively attacking these smuggling networks,” Macron, who called the abuses in Libya a crime against humanity, said at the meeting.

“We are going to ... to carry out targeted sanctions.”


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