Italy sketches ‘revolutionary’ idea to resettle 1,000 migrants stranded in Libya

Migrants sit in front of a painted wall in Tripoli, Libya, on 19 May 2016. [EPA/STR]

Italy, in a fresh bid to tackle a migration influx that has become a political headache, sketched proposals on Thursday (28 September) to resettle around the world a thousand vulnerable migrants who are stranded in Libya.

Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano pitched the idea before flying to Tripoli.

It would begin as a pilot scheme with “1,000 migrants” and entail “several countries around the world welcoming these people”, Alfano told a parliamentary committee in Rome.

The process would be “revolutionary,” as it would have to provide details about these individuals for host countries which are unable to interview them if they have closed their embassy in Tripoli, he said.

More than 600,000 people from Africa, Asia and the Middle East have arrived in Italy since 2014, many of them by sea from Libya. Rome is now looking hard at ways of discouraging migrants from crossing, including incentives for a voluntary return home or help for the most vulnerable.

Italy proposes Libya pact to curb illegal migration

Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti on Thursday (13 July) proposed a pact with Libya to combat human trafficking during a visit to Tripoli to meet mayors of cities affected by the scourge.

A migrant quota scheme launched by the European Union wrapped up on Wednesday after two years. The programme has seen less than a fifth of a planned 160,000 Syrians and other asylum-seekers relocated around the block from Italy and Greece by the use of compulsory quotas.

Now the trend is to move from mandatory relocations to voluntary resettlement, which means taking candidates from outside the EU, on a non-mandatory basis. The scheme is being followed by a proposal to admit at least 50,000 of the “most vulnerable” persons in need of protection to Europe over the next two years.

Commission moves from mandatory refugee relocations to voluntary resettlement

The Commission on Wednesday (27 September) made no proposals to continue with the divisive mandatory refugee relocation system and instead focused on resettlement, which means taking candidate refugees from outside the EU, on a non-mandatory basis.

The Commission’s new proposals envisage member states to set up “private sponsorship schemes” and pilot projects for legal migrations with third countries.

On Tuesday, Roberto Mignone, the representative for Libya with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), spoke of negotiations in Tripoli to open a 1,000-place transit centre for migrants considered vulnerable – families with children and the sick – with the aim of a resettling them to other countries.

But currently both UNHCR and other international agencies are waiting for a secure compound in Tripoli to bring in expatriate staff.

A contingent of 230 Nepalese troops is expected to arrive this week and deploy at the site, which would be ready in November, Mignone said.