1 December 2017

Africa: EU, Africa Leaders to Speed Up Repatriation of Migrants From Libya

Photo: Jeremy Relph/IRIN
Migrants have gathered in Sidi Bilal because they feel safer as a group (file photo).

African and European leaders agreed to speed up efforts to repatriate thousands of migrants stranded in Libya, some in unspeakably brutal conditions.

About 80 European Union and African Union heads of state ended two days of talks Thursday in Ivory Coast, promising to ramp up the fight against human traffickers.

They said they would repatriate about 3,800 migrants in one camp near Tripoli as soon as possible.

But African Union officials say there are as many as 42 camps across Libya, housing up to 700,000 people.

Television pictures broadcast on CNN of slave auctions in some of the camps shocked and sickened the world and showed the need for immediate action.

French President Emmanuel Macron called slave trading a crime against humanity and said human traffickers were "deeply linked" to terrorist networks throughout northern Africa.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said it was appalling that "some Nigerians were being sold like goats for a few dollars in Libya." He said all Nigerians stranded in Libya and other parts of the world would be brought home and "rehabilitated."

Libya is the main jumping-off point for Africans and others in the Middle East looking to reach the EU, hoping to escape terrorism and poverty for a better life in the West.

Thousands die every year trying to make the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea.

The EU and Libya are working to discourage such hazardous trips, including cracking down on human traffickers who often leave their cargo stranded at sea.

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