- EU president says Italy, Malta may require special assistance
- Warning comes as EU gets handle on refugee flow to Greece
European Union President Donald Tusk warned about a possible overwhelming influx of refugees from warn-torn Libya, saying that Italy and Malta may need EU support to cope.
“The numbers of would-be migrants in Libya are alarming,” Tusk told the European Parliament on Wednesday in Strasbourg, France. “This means that we must be prepared to help and show solidarity to Malta and Italy should they request it.”
As Europe gets a grip on the biggest refugee wave since World War II through an agreement last month with Turkey to stem flows to Greece, Tusk is seeking to guard against the risk of complacency in EU national capitals. A fledgling Libyan unity government is struggling to halt a collapse that has uprooted nearly half a million people and enabled Islamic State to establish a presence along the Mediterranean Sea.
The arrival in Greece since early 2015 of around a million Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi and other migrants seeking a new life in northern Europe has fueled populist parties across the continent, shaken European governments and prompted the first-ever plan to deploy humanitarian aid within the bloc.
The influx has also led to the reintroduction of internal-EU border checks that, while a threat to the bloc’s passport-free travel zone, have shut the Balkan migratory route and raised the prospect of arrivals elsewhere. The number of refugees headed to Italy jumped to 9,676 in March from 3,828 in February, according to the United Nations.
“We must remember that the Balkan route is not the only one,” Tusk said. “I have in mind here the Central Mediterranean route.”