EU Chief Warns: “..At least another 1 Million immigrants from Libya will be arriving by years end..”
- North Africa could produce hundreds of thousands of potential migrants
- David Cameron will today plead with EU to take immediate action on Libya
- More than 2,400 migrants have been intercepted off Libya since Tuesday
An extra 450,000 migrants could attempt to reach Europe this summer as a result of the crisis in Libya, EU leaders have been warned.
Border chiefs have already said the continent faces an influx of one million arrivals this year – similar to the number who travelled in 2015.
Now Brussels foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has privately warned that the ‘volatile situation’ in North Africa could produce hundreds of thousands extra ‘potential candidates for migration to Europe’.
The comments came in a letter to EU foreign ministers, extracts of which were leaked to the Politico website.
David Cameron will today plead with EU leaders to take immediate action on Libya or risk seeing a repeat of last summer when the political agenda was rocked by migrants heading across the Mediterranean from North Africa to Italy.
He will travel to Brussels for a summit on stemming the flow of Syrian refugees on the EU’s eastern borders, including a controversial deal with Turkey to reduce the number of arrivals in Greece.
But Mr Cameron fears leaders risk being caught off guard, with another wave of migrants poised to cross from Libya as the weather warms and EU action focuses on the situation elsewhere.
A government source said the PM would urge EU leaders to focus on the ‘big picture’ – and warn that clamping down on the migrant route through Turkey and Greece could see even more migrants try to cross via Libya.
‘In the last few months the eastern Mediterranean has been of most concern because it is the shortest route and has been possible to cross in the winter,’ said the source.
‘But we should be thinking and preparing now for what happens as we move into summer on the western Mediterranean route, which is where this issue started to flare up last year…
‘If we close down the route to Greece we have to remember that 50 per cent using that route are non-Syrians who may well look at other routes – we may see the diversion of people into the western Mediterranean route.’
Libya has been in turmoil since the toppling of dictator Colonel Gaddafi in 2011. Since Tuesday alone, more than 2,400 migrants have been intercepted off Libya by Italian coastguards. The UN said 9,500 have landed at Italian ports since the start of the year.
Mr Cameron yesterday denied claims that Britain is poised to send 1,000 troops to Libya to prop up the new regime.
He told MPs that people smuggling is ‘bad for Europe and bad for us, and we also have the growth of Daesh [Islamic State] in Libya, which is bad for us and bad for the rest of Europe’.
The EU’s borderless Schengen zone has been driven to the brink of collapse by the flow of migrants into eastern Europe this winter fuelled by conflict in the Middle East.
Member states hope to hammer out a controversial deal in the next 48 hours under which Turkey receives billions in aid, visa-free travel and fast-tracked EU membership in return for helping seal its border with Europe.
Under last-ditch efforts to seal the agreement, it emerged yesterday that judges would be despatched to Greece to order the removal of migrants within days of their arrival.
Migrant camps on holiday islands including Lesbos and Kos would be turned into detention centres with teams of justices working round-the-clock in makeshift courthouses to rule on asylum claims.
Tory grandee David Davis last night urged Mr Cameron in a letter to block the ‘catastrophic’ deal ‘in the interests of national security’.