Written by 1:21 am European Union

EU official: equip Libya Coast Guard to manage migration

The European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief said Europe was not “guilty” for the increase in irregular migration to the continent despite billions of euros spent by the bloc since the migration crisis of 2015.

“We are not guilty for the people willing to go to Europe. We are not guilty for the demographic growth with the Sahelian countries. We are not guilty for the differences on economic development,” Josep Borrell told the Associated Press during an interview on Thursday in Barcelona.

Borrell co-chaired the 7th Forum of the Union for the Mediterranean aimed at promoting dialogue and cooperation between 43 countries of the region.

The impacts of the war in Ukraine on food and energy prices in the region, as well as migration from south to north were the main topics of discussion.

Migration has been high on the agenda following a diplomatic row between France and Italy over the fate of migrants rescued by humanitarian ships.

EU interior ministers will hold emergency talks on Friday in an effort to find a permanent solution to the disagreement over the disembarkation of people rescued by humanitarian ships.

Asked about the Commission’s perspective on the work of such charities, Borrell denounced the criminalisation of NGOs.

“They are playing an important role in saving lives of people,” he said. “Another different thing is the fact that there is certainly people who are not NGOs who are pushing people to the sea at the risk of their lives.”

The European Union has funded and equipped North African countries to keep migrants from crossing the sea on unseaworthy boats, outsourcing much of the search and rescue to them.

But in Libya, the EU has been accused of being complicit with human rights violations given that migrants rescued or intercepted at sea by Libyan authorities are then placed in detention centres, often falling back into the hands of human traffickers in a vicious cycle of violence and extortion.

Asked if the EU should stop supporting the Libyan coast guards and other Libyan coastal authorities, Borrell said the situation was “complex.”

“The Libyan Coast Guard has to be trained. The Libyan Coast Guard have to be equipped. The Libyan Coast Guard has to be controlled, by whom? By the Libyan government,” Borrell explained, ignoring the fact that there are currently two rival governments and dozens of militias fighting for control of the oil rich nation.

“We cannot ask the Libyan government to control the coast and at the same time not to provide the resources to do it,” he added.

Although Borrell’s main focus on Thursday was the Mediterranean, the EU Foreign Policy chief was celebrating a deal brokered the night before between Serbia and Kosovo on a dispute over vehicle number plates, defusing rising tensions between the two Western Balkan neighbors.

“We have to be happy that this calmed down the situation and allow us to to work on the real issues. And the real issues is the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.”

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