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EU to focus on reducing Mediterranean immigration

 

European Union (EU) leaders meeting over migration later this week will agree to further tighten their external borders and give more support to Libya, Reuters says.

Heads of state and government of the twenty-seven-member union will also look at creating “disembarkation” centres outside of their territory for people who arrive by sea.

However, a draft of their statement showed no consensus on distributing asylum seekers around the bloc, a measure strongly opposed by eastern European countries.

With anti-immigration politicians raising the stakes in EU countries from Germany and Austria to Italy and Hungary, the bloc is seeking more ways to limit Mediterranean arrivals.

Arrivals have already dropped to some 43,000 refugees and migrants so far this year from a peak of more than a million in 2015, according to UN data.

But the related political crisis is still high inside the EU.

During Thursday’s and Friday’s talks in Brussels, the EU leaders are expected to agree that “a precondition for a functioning EU policy on migration is effective control of the external borders.”

To that end, they will seek to beef up the European Border and Coast Guard by giving it more resources and a stronger mandate.

They will also assign more funds to Libya, including for training its coast guards, and other North African countries, according to the latest draft of their joint statement.

EU states, such as  Italy, Greece and Spain, where most migrants arrive, will also receive more support, said the document, reviewed by Reuters.

The bloc will try to step up deportations of failed asylum seekers and expand the EU-financed programmes for voluntary returns from Libya to further south in Africa.

They will seek a migration deal with Morocco and consider creating “regional disembarkation platforms” outside the EU where the bloc would assess asylum claims and hold those whose requests fail before they are repatriated.

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