European and African ministers discuss catastrophic migrant situation

Photo credit: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah. Migrants arrive at a naval base after they were rescued by Libyan coastal guards in Tripoli, Libya November 6, 2017.

TMP – 01/12/2017

On 13 November, interior ministers from 13 African and European nations and representatives of international organizations gathered in Switzerland to discuss the urgent need to address the challenges posed by the alarming situation along the migration route from North Africa to Europe.

The 13 countries represented at the meeting were Algeria, Austria, Chad, France, Germany, Italy, Libya, Mali, Malta, Niger, Slovenia, Switzerland and Tunisia. The countries comprise the Central Mediterranean Contact Group, which facilitates the exchange of information among European and African countries affected by migration via the Central Mediterranean route. Representatives from the EU, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also attended the meeting.

The objectives of the meeting included improving conditions in migrant detention centres in Libya, particularly for women, children and unaccompanied minors, and identifying alternatives to detention. Encouraging voluntary returns, identifying the root causes of migration and creating economic alternatives and alternative migration pathways such as scholarships and apprenticeships were also discussed.

A joint declaration setting out measures to ensure protection of the most vulnerable was adopted by participants. The declaration calls for the strengthening of asylum and protection structures along the Central Mediterranean migration route and the improvement of measures to prevent smuggling and to combat human trafficking.

Thousands of migrants find themselves in catastrophic situations in the region and are subjected to extortion, violence and threats at the hands of smugglers and traffickers. Many die on their journey across the desert or the crossing the Mediterranean.
“We had a very intensive exchange, because the questions we are dealing with are very demanding issues,” Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, who hosted the event, said after the meeting. “This is why we concentrated on protecting refugees. We had many people with different viewpoints sitting around the table, but nonetheless, on this point we all agreed…. We want to improve the situation of migrants and refugees, particularly in Libya.”