Libya snubs EU calls for refugee camps on its shores

AFP , Thursday 6 Oct 2016

Libya-EU migrant crisis
A member of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms stands near a life boat carrying the bodies of 29 refugees and migrants, who died on a rubber boat north of Libya while crossing the Mediterranean Sea, as it is dragged by the Proactiva Open Arms sailing boat on October 5, 2016 (Photo: AFP)

Libya, a key springboard for Europe-bound migrants, on Thursday rejected calls from some EU countries to build refugee camps on its shores, saying the bloc could not "shirk its responsibility".

"The EU would shirk its responsibility and instead place it on our shoulders," Foreign Minister Mohamad Taher Siala said at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in Vienna.

The idea is "very far removed from the reality on the ground" in conflict-torn Libya where the government is engaged in fierce battles with Islamic State militants, he added.

Several European Union countries, including Austria and Hungary, have been pushing for EU deals with North African countries to send back rejected asylum-seekers as a way of dealing with the worst migration crisis since 1945.

Hungary's populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban recently said the EU should build "a large refugee city" on the Libyan coast to process asylum claims of migrants outside the EU.

A growing number of people are attempting the treacherous sea journey from Libya or Egypt, after the closure of the Balkan migrant trail route leading from Greece to western Europe.

More than 140,000 have made the journey to Italy on overcrowded boats since the start of this year, latest figures show.

Over 3,500 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean in 2016 so far.

In March, the bloc signed a landmark agreement with Turkey to curb the flow toward Greece, but the deal looks shaky after a coup attempt in July.

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