France will set up processing centres in Libya for asylum seekers trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean, President Emmanuel Macron announced Thursday.
“The idea is to create hotspots to avoid people taking crazy risks when they are not all eligible for asylum. We’ll go to them,” Macron said during a visit to a refugee shelter in central France, adding the plan would be put in place “this summer”, with or without other EU countries.
Lawless Libya is the main launchpad for African migrants trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean in rickety boats operated by smugglers that frequently sink.
Macron’s announcement came two days after he brokered talks in Paris between the leaders of the two rival authorities in the war-torn country, who committed to a conditional ceasefire.
Presenting the agreement, Macron said he hoped a return to stability in Libya would check the outflow of migrants.
Since January, more than 100,000 people have made the perilous voyage across the water, according to the International Organization for Migration. Over 2,300 have drowned this year in the attempt.
The vast majority land in Italy — the EU country closest to north Africa — which has complained of a lack of solidarity from its neighbours in dealing with the influx.
Macron said he would send officials from the French asylum bureau to help out in Italy. “I am also ready to send some to Libya,” he said, adding he was ready to go it alone, if necessary.
“Other European countries are very reticent. We’ll try to do it with Europe but we in France will do it,” he insisted.
The plan appeared to take the EU by surprise but European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said the bloc was “open to discussing with any and all of our member states” ways to improve the situation in the Mediterranean.