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"In the last two years we have been working very intensively to reduce human suffering and the loss of lives, especially in the Central Mediterranean. If I can give you a number, [EUNAVFOR Med] Operation Sophia alone saved last year more than 32,000 people and apprehended more than 100 smugglers. Still, last year we faced more than 4,500 losses of lives in the Central Mediterranean route and these are not numbers; these are persons with stories, names and every a single life counts," said High Representative Federica Mogherini today on the Commission's contribution to the 3 February Malta Summit.
Mogherini and the European Commission put forward a number of additional measures to strengthen the EU's work along this route, in particular with and around Libya. They focus on fighting human smuggling and trafficking networks, helping to manage migratory flows more effectively, continuing to save lives at sea and improving the living conditions of migrants and refugees in Libya and neighbouring countries. Mogherini said: "It is essential that we all do more, all, meaning all together. This is why we presented today jointly a package of additional concrete measures to contribute to the Malta Summit discussion of the Heads of State and Government and to suggest concrete actions that can be done and that can bring some positive results with an envelope of €200 million for 2017 to support these concrete actions."
Key objectives of the proposals include reducing the number of crossings and saving lives by enhancing ongoing support, including through EUNAVFOR Operation Sophia, to the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy, and also through expanding the training activities through an immediate €1 million addition to the Seahorse programme and a grant of €2.2 million under the Regional Development and Protection Programme in North Africa and establishing a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre;
Stepping up the fight against smugglers and traffickers by ensuring an operational 'Seahorse Mediterranean' Network by Spring 2017 to strengthen the border authorities of North African countries and allow better operational cooperation amongst them;
Protecting migrants, increasing resettlement and promoting assisted voluntary returns, by supporting UNHCR work with the Libyan authorities to address the situation of persons in need of international protection, and supporting IOM in improving the situation of migrants in Libya and expanding its assisted voluntary returns programme from Libya to countries of origin.
The package also includes: managing migrant flows through the southern Libyan border by deploying the full range of EU missions and projects to support the Libyan authorities in border management and migrant protection, promoting dialogue between Libya and its neighbours and maintaining the momentum of results with Niger under the Partnership Framework;
Mogherini added that "the real long-term solution lies in two difficult things to achieve but on which we are working daily. On one side, peace and stability in Libya ... And, on the other side, the real solution comes with the economic development of Africa and here also our daily work is going on with the Migration Compacts we are implementing with 5 key countries [Senegal, Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria, Mali], with the [European] External Investment Plan, with the Trust Funds and the Valetta Summit that we had last year with the African partners."