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Malta asks Libya to help stem migrants

12 July 2013, 10:06

Valletta - Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat invited a senior Libyan official to talks with EU President Herman Van Rompuy on Thursday in a bid to get the North African nation's help in stemming the flow of migrant arrivals.

Muscat co-ordinated a last-minute meeting with Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Sadiq Abdulkarim Abdulrahman during an official visit to Valletta by Van Rompuy.

"We managed to break new ground in seeing a long-term solution which we concurred lies in the south. Libya is not part of the problem but must be part of the solution," the Maltese premier said.

Van Rompuy said more surveillance, as well as ways to tackle "the root causes of migration such as poverty, conflict and trafficking," were discussed with Abdulrahman.

"We have to deal with this problem in a humane and at the same time an effective way," he said.

Muscat offered to host future talks between the EU and Libya.

Van Rompuy's trip to Malta came days after the country's botched attempt to deport 45 Somali migrants to Libya. The plan was abandoned following criticism by the European Court of Human Rights and the European Commission.

Hours before his arrival, 202 people were rescued off the Maltese coast, all of whom had left from Libyan shores.

Separately, Italian authorities said they rescued 85 migrants, including a baby, on a dinghy some 53km off Malta.

Each year, tens of thousands of people escaping poverty or persecution try to reach Europe through the Mediterranean, often aboard rickety boats. Italy and Malta have struggled to cope with the arrivals, and complain about insufficient help from EU partners.

"We cannot be left alone as a country. Our citizens feel a sense of abandonment," Muscat said. In the past, he threatened to veto EU decisions to force the bloc into action.

Van Rompuy noted that Malta was receiving €80m from the EU's 2007-13 budget and pledged that "strong financial support" would continue to be offered over the next seven years.



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