Malta wants EU aid for Libya

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Malta is calling for a 100 million euro European Union aid package to avert a humanitarian disaster among people fleeing Libya, where violence worsend the impact of coronavirus.

Malta Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo wrote to EU external relations representative Josep Borrell warning the situation is becoming unsustainable, days after the Mediterranean island closed its ports to migrant boats.

“Migrant detention camps are overflowing and according to credible reports, thousands of migrants are escaping from or being allowed to leave camps,” he said in a televised address.

“All the ingredients for a major humanitarian disaster waiting to happen are in this conyext, as desperate people look to the Mediterranean Sea as their only escape.”

Italy and Malta, EU countries at the frontline of the migrant crisis from North Africa, closed off ports to new arrivals last week saying the coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to deal with them safely.

There is concern unrest in Libya, combined with dire conditions in detention centres, could push refugees to attempt the dangerous sea voyage.

Most recent figures from UNHCR show Italy with 3 229 arrivals this year, while 1 135 arrived in Malta.

Bartolo said Malta was calling for an EU package of at least 100 million euros in food, aid, medical supplies and equipment.

“Alleviating or at least minimising difficult circumstances migrants live in will be an incentive to stay, rather than risk their lives in the Mediterranean Sea at a time of crisis and with limited rescue options,” he said.