800,000 migrants in Libya seeking to come to Europe: French minister

Frontex officers resue migrants off the coast of Libya. [Frontex]

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said today (24 April) that some 800,000 migrants are in Libya hoping to cross to Europe.

Le Drian said in an interview with Europe 1 radio that “hundreds of thousands” of migrants were in Libya, having fled conflict and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere, adding that the figure of 800,000 was “about right”.

In 2015 more than a million migrants entered Europe, about half of them Syrians, with Germany shouldering most of the burden.

More than 100,000 crossed the Mediterranean Sea in the first two months of 2016 alone, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

And after a controversial deal between Turkey and the European Union came into force this week, aiming to cut off the migrant sea route between Turkey and Greece, there are fears more will attempt the even more dangerous Libya-Italy route.

The biggest movement of people on the continent since World War II has strained ties in Europe, with several nations limiting the number of migrants they allow in.

This has left thousands blocked in dire conditions, notably at the Greek border crossing of Idomeni.

Earlier this year, Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán was quoted as saying that 50 million Nigerians were preparing to come to Italy via Libya, when the weather improves. Nigeria has a population of 180 million and is considered a “safe country”. Contacted by EURACTIV, Frontex said that it was “not aware of such a prognosis”.

Nigerians arrive in Italy via Libya, says Frontex

Frontex, the EU border management agency, said some 5,600 refugees, mostly Nigerians, arrived in Italy last month by boat, after crossing the Mediterranean. Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán was quoted as saying that 50 million of Nigerians could arrive in Italy via Libya.


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