July 20, 2018 / 8:54 AM / 5 months ago

Libya rejects EU plans for migrant centres on its territory

FILE PHOTO: Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj leaves after an international conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Libya rejects a European Union’s plan to establish migrant centres there to stop asylum seekers arriving in western Europe and it will not be swayed by financial inducements, Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj said.

Italy last month proposed reception and identification centres for migrant processing in Africa as a means of resolve divisions among European governments over how to handle an influx of more than 1 million migrants since 2015.

Libya is a main departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe often on flimsy inflatable boats provided by smugglers that often spring leaks or break down.

“We are absolutely opposed to Europe officially wanting us to accommodate illegal immigrants the EU does not want to take in,” Sarraj told German mass-selling daily Bild in an interview published on Friday.

He dismissed accusations that Libya’s coastguard has shot at aid workers trying to rescue migrants.

“We save hundreds of people off the coast of Libya every day - our ships are constantly on the move,” he said, adding that Libya was being left to rescue migrants from the Mediterranean alone and needed more technical and financial support.

The UN Migration Agency said 51,782 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea through 18 July. That total compares to 110,189 at this time last year and 244,722 at this time in 2016. The death toll to date this year is 1,490 it said.

Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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