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EU limits small boat sales to Libya

July 17, 2017

EU foreign ministers have introduced restrictions in a bid to counter human-trafficking. More than 100,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean since the start of the year, with 85,000 landing in Italy.

A Libyan coast guardsman stands on a boat crowded with migrants.
Image: Getty Images/AFP/T. Jawashi

The European Union on Monday agreed to limit the sales of inflatable boats to Libya in an effort to stem the flow of migrants into Europe. The plan set out by the bloc's 28 foreign ministers covers outboard motors and rubber dinghies.

"We took a decision to introduce restrictions from today onwards on the export and supply to Libya of the inflatable boats and motors," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.

"These are devices are used by traffickers for smuggling activities. This decision we have taken on the European Union level will help make their businesses and lives even more complicated," the former Italian foreign minister told journalists.

Read: Italy deals blow to citizenship rights for migrants

On board a refugee rescue ship

The EU issued a statement saying there is now be a legal basis to block the supply of these boats to Libya if there are "reasonable grounds" to suspect they will be used by people smugglers and human traffickers.

But officials maintain that fishermen, and others who have legitimate needs for the dinghies and motors will still be able to import them.

Read: EU backs Italy in stand-off with NGOs over refugee rescue

Helping Libya

EU countries can deny licenses to import-export businesses suspected of supplying smugglers, according to EU sources.

The foreign ministers also extended until the end of 2018 an EU mission to help Libya re-establish effective controls mainly at its southern borders where sub-Saharan African migrants first arrive.

Libya has struggled to control its long, desolate, land borders with Sudan, Chad and Niger.

The EU has also trained 113 Libyan coast guard members in the last few months and plans to train another 75 starting in September, in another step to stem the flow of people, Mogherini told reporters.

Rescue organizations in Italy under pressure

Italy is increasing pressure on the EU to stop the flow of migrants to its shores, including demands to make member states admit tens of thousands of migrants under a largely unenforced emergency plan launched nearly two years ago.

More than 100,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea since the start of the year, and 84 per cent have landed in Italy from Libya by boat, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Italian authorities say they have registered 85,000 migrant arrivals on its coasts in the first six months of the year.

bik/rt (AFP, AP, dpa)