Encouraged by their success in halting a mass influx of refugees by closing Greek borders and cutting a controversial deal with Turkey, EU leaders are getting tough on African migrants too.
A Brussels summit on Thursday is expected to endorse pilot projects to pressure African governments, via aid budgets, to slow down the influx – an exodus of people across the Sahara and Mediterranean.
It also wants swift results from an EU campaign to deport large numbers who reach Italy.
“By the end of the year, we need to see results,” one senior EU diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
Arrivals in Italy so far this year are nearly six per cent higher than the same period of 2015.
Italy received 154,000 migrants last year and this year’s figure will be similar or slightly higher.
Italy is sheltering 165,000 asylum seekers, almost three times as many as in 2014.
The buildup has accelerated since Italy’s northern neighbours clamped down on border controls.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has told EU allies that Rome can cope for now, but is worried about the future.
EU officials want to put in place tougher measures to identify illegal migrants and fly them back to Africa before 2017 migration season, when thousands are expected to take to precarious boats from Libya.
“We need to clean this up and have migration compacts with African countries in place before next spring,” a senior EU official said. (Reuters/NAN)