European Union leaders on Friday drew up new plans to screen migrants in North Africa for eligibility to enter Europe, saying they set aside major differences over stemming the flow of people seeking sanctuary or better lives.
But the show of unity did little to hide the fact that the hardest work still lies ahead. Even as they met in Brussels for a second day, Libya’s coast guard said about 100 people were missing and feared dead after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean. The new plan is to receive people from rescue ships in EU nations that agree to share responsibility for handing migration with the EU’s main point-of-entry countries like Spain, Italy and Greece.
But they also will receive them in centers in North Africa and possibly the Balkans. Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia are touted as possible locations, even though details of the plans are sketchy. “We are protecting better. We are cooperating more. And we are reaffirming our principles,” France President Macron said. EU Council President Donald Tusk warned against declaring victory.
“This is in fact the easiest part of the task, compared to what awaits us on the ground, when we start implementing it.” In the latest reported capsizing, Libyan coast guard spokesman Ayoub Gassim said 16 people were rescued from the water east of the capital, Tripoli, while the bodies of three children were recovered. He quoted a Yemeni survivor as saying the boat carried about 125 people.