European Union leaders meet in Malta to discuss Mediterranean migration issue

Boats carrying migrants can only be turned back to Libya if they are intercepted within Libyan waters, but both North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union cannot undermine the sovereignty of the Libyan government by deploying ships within their sovereign waters.

Italy has already set up a fund of £171 million to help Libya, Tunisia and Nigeria deter migrants from travelling to Europe.

Ironically, just two days ago, Council President Donald Tusk criticized Donald Trump's recent executive order putting a moratorium on new visas for nationals of seven particularly risky seedbeds of terrorism, calling the U.S. President a "demagogue" who poses an "existential threat" to the EU.

Tusk said those factors "as well as worrying declarations by the new American administration all make our future highly unpredictable".

The EU is stepping up the training of Tripoli's coast guard and offering more money and aid to Libya and other African countries to seal their borders so migrants seeking better lives in Europe do not get through.

We call for concerted efforts to ensure that sustainable migration and asylum systems are put in place in Libya, when the security and political situation permits, and in neighboring countries.

It noted that at least 1,354 migrants and refugees m including 190 children, drowned in the period from November 2016 to end of January 2017 - with the majority of deaths occurring on the Central Mediterranean sea route between Libya and Italy where 1,191 people are reported to have perished.

"Now it is time to close down the route from Libya to Italy".

The Seraj government is struggling to establish control amid the chaos that followed the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. "What we need is the full determination to do that".

"There is also now direct engagement with the tribes in southern Libya who have until now been cooperating with the traffickers and earning between five and six million euros (dollars) a week from that", Muscat added.

A United Nations report past year said they suffer from arbitrary detention, forced labour, rape and torture.

But Tusk also echoed what many European Union leaders have said - that Trump is a chance for a Europe to finally unify after Brexit and the eurozone crisis, and perhaps even take Washington's place in global politics and trade.

The move came as a report claimed elements of the Libyan coastguard were complicit in the smuggling and said returning anyone caught on boats to coastal detention centres was risky since conditions there were horrendous.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights have all criticized Libya's human rights record.

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