Italy pens 'friendship deal' with Libya to return migrants

Italy pens 'friendship deal' with Libya to return migrants
The deal reactivates a 2008 treaty that had Libya working to stop migrant flows in exchange for billions in Italian investment.
2 min read
08 July, 2018
The 'friendship deal' allows Italy to return migrants to Libya [Getty]

Italy on Saturday reactivated a decade-old 'friendship treaty' that allows it to return migrants to Libyan territory.

The announcement came at a joint press conference in Tripoli with Italy's foreing minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi and his Libyan counterpart Mohamad Siala.

Milanesi hailed the agreement reached during his first visit to Tripoli as  "significant and promising".

The 2008 treaty was signed by former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and Italy's then prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, as the North African country and its former coloniser sought to improve ties.

The deal was suspended in February 2011, after the start of the uprising that saw Gaddafi removed from power and killed.

The original treaty envisaged unlocking $5 billion of Italian investment in Libya as compensation for decades of colonisation.  

In exchange, Libya would work to stop illegal migrants embarking from its shores -- and receive those sent back to the North African country, a clause lambasted by human rights activists.   

The two ministers did not say if the text of the reactivated treaty had been amended.

During Gaddafi's rule, thousands of migrants crossed Libya's nearly 3,000 miles of land borders in attempts to reach the Mediterranean and cross to Europe. 

The flow of migrants through Libya surged after Gaddafi was toppled and killed in 2011, with smugglers exploiting the country's chaos to send tens of thousands of people each year across a 185-mile stretch of the Mediterranean to Italian territory.

At least 34,000 people have died trying to reach Europe from across the Mediterranean since 1993, most from drowning, according to figures released in June.

Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini flew to Libya in late June in a bid to block future migrant flows.

Italy has recently come under intense international criticism for blocking its ports to charity rescue ships in the Mediterranean. 

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