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EU parliament head in Libya urges trafficker 'blacklist'

Thousands of migrants have crossed into Europe via Libya [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 July, 2018

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As the EU grapples with the issue of migration from Africa and the Middle East, European Parliament chief in Libya called for a 'blacklist' of people smugglers.

European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani in Libya called for a "blacklist" of people smugglers to be set up to help stem the flow of migrants from Africa to Europe, reports said on Monday.

The European Union is grappling with the issue of migration from Africa and the Middle East and hammered out a controversial plan last week to curb the number of arrivals.

People traffickers in North Africa have taken advantage of chaos in Libya since the 2011 ouster of Muammar Gaddafi to send people on the perilous voyage northwards across the Mediterranean Sea.  

"We have to establish a blacklist of the major traffickers... so that police and law enforcement in Africa and in Europe can work together on a common objective," Tajani said after meeting the head of Libya's internationally-backed government in Tripoli. 

"If we do not manage to destroy these criminal organisations, it will be very difficult to fight against illegal immigration."

Italy and Greece have until now recorded the biggest numbers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach the European Union.

But with the route through Libya shutting down as the Libyan coast guard increases patrols, people smugglers are setting their sights westward to routes from Morocco to Spain.

Libya is split between rival factions, with the UN-backed Government of National accord under Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli opposed by strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east of the country.  

A deal between Libya's vying leaders was brokered in May by France to hold elections this year, but scepticism remains that the vote will go ahead.  

The latest comments came after Italy reactivated a decade-old 'friendship treaty' that allows it to return migrants to Libyan territory on Saturday.

The 2008 treaty was signed by former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and Italy's then prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, as the North African country and its former coloniser sought to improve ties.

The deal was suspended in February 2011, after the start of the uprising that saw Gaddafi removed from power and killed.

The original treaty envisaged unlocking $5 billion of Italian investment in Libya as compensation for decades of colonisation.  

In exchange, Libya would work to stop illegal migrants embarking from its shores - and receive those sent back to the North African country, a clause lambasted by human rights activists.

During Gaddafi's rule, thousands of migrants crossed Libya's nearly 3,000 miles of land borders in attempts to reach the Mediterranean and cross to Europe. 

The flow of migrants through Libya surged after Gaddafi was toppled and killed in 2011, with smugglers exploiting the country's chaos to send tens of thousands of people each year across a 185-mile stretch of the Mediterranean to Italian territory.

At least 34,000 people have died trying to reach Europe from across the Mediterranean since 1993, most from drowning, according to figures released in June.

Meanwhile, Italy has recently come under intense international criticism for blocking its ports to charity rescue ships in the Mediterranean. 

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