Abidjan. — A summit gathering European and African leaders from more than 80 countries drew to a close yesterday with plans for the immediate evacuation of some 3 800 African migrants stranded in Libya. Wrapping up the summit in the Ivorian capital, a top African Union official said there could be as many as 700 000 Africans trapped in Libya, where many have suffered atrocities and even been sold into slavery.
The two-day summit of the African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) was showcased as a project to boost development in Africa as it faces a population crunch. But it was largely overshadowed by shock TV footage of black Africans sold as slaves in Libya, prompting protests in many countries and demands for action.
In a final address, AU commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat said those stranded in Libya wanted to get out “as swiftly as possible,” warning that there were between “400 000 and 700 000” people there and at least 42 migrant camps.
“We must urgently save those who are in this (dire) situation, and then together, Libya, the EU, AU and UN, we must think about devising longer-term solutions for the migration issue.” Hosting the summit, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara agreed there was an urgent need for action.
“The inhumane treatment of migrants challenges us, requiring responses which match our condemnation,” he said. He called on humanitarian aid to go hand-in-hand with action to root out human trafficking and solutions for the poverty that prompted so many young Africans to take the risk of trekking to Europe in search of a better life.
In a meeting late on Wednesday, the leaders of Libya, France, Germany, Chad, Niger and four other countries agreed on a plan to allow migrants facing abuse in Libyan detention camps to be evacuated within days or weeks, mostly to their home countries. They agreed on “an extreme emergency operation to evacuate from Libya those who want to be,” French President Emmanuel Macron said.
“Libya restated its agreement to identify the camps where scenes of barbarism have been identified . . . President (Fayez) al-Sarraj, has given his agreement for ensuring access,” Macron said, referring to the embattled head of the unity government in Libya. They also offered increased support for the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) “to help with the return of the Africans who want it, to their home countries,” said the French leader who called the emergency meeting. — AFP.