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Conditions divide EU-Africa summit deal on migrants

Political leaders at an EU-Africa summit in Malta remain divided over conditions for curbing a mass influx of migrants. Merkel said that a relationship with Africa includes aid but also 'clear demands and expectations.'

European and African leaders on Wednesday met in the Maltese capital Valletta to hash out a deal that would provide African countries with aid and improved access to the EU in exchange for assistance in curbing migration flows to Europe.

EU Council President Donald Tusk said that the number of people moving across borders "has never been so big."

"Migration creates both challenges and opportunities and it affects us all - countries of origin, transit and destination. The number of people on the move globally has never been so big," Tusk said

However, the former Polish prime minister said that African countries needed to assist migrants by receiving them in the wake of deportation from Europe.

"To keep the doors open for refugees and legal migrants, irregular migrants should be returned effectively and quickly. Voluntary return is always preferable. But when it is not possible, non-voluntary return is a pre-requisite for a well-managed migration policy," Tusk noted.

The EU has struggled to form a cohesive plan to tackle the influx of nearly 800,000 migrants, many fleeing their war-torn countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who came under sharp criticism for her open-door policy to Syrian refugees, said that even though the aim is a "comradely" relationship with Africa, it also "includes, besides assistance, clear demands and expectations."

EU leaders said they expect African countries to fulfill their legal obligations by receiving migrants deported by European authorities.

Watch video 04:06

'Refugees welcome'

'Reduce poverty'

Meanwhile, Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou said a deal was contingent on migrants' arrival conditions.

"We are open to talk about it. Everything will depend on the conditions that will be in place for when they arrive," Issoufou said.

"We can put security measures in place, but the flow will remain difficult to stop as long as we don't take measures to reduce poverty," the President of Niger added.

French President Francois Hollande reiterated Issoufou's sentiments at the EU-Africa summit, stating that investment was necessary to prevent continuous migration flows. "If we don't understand that we must invest massively in the development of Africa, then in the coming years we will keep on always having these flows of migration," Hollande noted.

The summit is expected to end by Thursday, after which EU leaders will hold an emergency summit to address the influx of migrants. The emergency gathering comes amid an increase in member states reinstating border controls, with Sweden becoming the latest country to do so.

ls/jm (Reuters, AP)

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