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AU, EU & UN to address migrant situation in Libya

A joint task team has met in Belgium to discuss further measures to curb human trafficking from Africa to Europe.

A picture taken on 11 December 2017 shows African migrants sitting in a shelter at the Tariq Al-Matar migrant detention centre on the outskirts of the Libyan capital Tripoli. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN/ROME/TRIPOLI - A joint task team has met in Belgium to discuss further measures to curb human trafficking from Africa to Europe.

The African Union, United Nations and the European Union formally set up the team early this month.

Since then, more than 3,000 people have been returned to their countries of origin from Libya, the main transit route.

The AU says it’s working with Libyan authorities to ensure other organisations can visit detention centres so as to register migrants and refugees.

Last week, Italy said it wants Libya’s coastguard to take responsibility within three years for intercepting migrants across about a tenth of the Mediterranean even as Libyan crews struggle to patrol their own coast and are accused of making deadly mistakes at sea.

Six years after the revolution that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, Libya is split between rival governments in the east and west while ports and beaches are largely in the hands of armed groups.

Migrant smuggling has flourished, with more than 600,000 making the perilous journey across the central Mediterranean in four years. Migrants transiting through Libya often endure appalling conditions, including rape, torture and forced labour.

The Italian plan, outlined in a slide presentation seen by Reuters, shows that Italy and the European Union are focusing on rebuilding Libya’s navy and coastguard so they can stop boats.

But aid groups say the Libyans are poorly trained and accuse them of mishandling a rescue last month in which some 50 people are thought to have died.

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