The Latest: Italy: Deal with Libya will cut migrant influx

AP News
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Posted: Feb 02, 2017 2:43 PM
The Latest: Italy: Deal with Libya will cut migrant influx

VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — The Latest on Europe's migration influx (all times local):

8:40 p.m.

Italy's leader says he has reached a deal with Libya to try to stop migrants from setting out from Libyan shores in huge numbers for Europe.

Premier Paolo Gentiloni told reporters Thursday night after meeting Libyan Premier Fayez Serraj in Rome that the two sides signed a memo of understanding to step up cooperation and, with Italian assistance, help fight the migrant trafficking.

A European Union summit in Malta on Friday is focused on finding ways to reduce the number of migrants leaving from Libya. Italy's Coast Guard has coordinated the rescue in the Mediterranean near Libya of hundreds of thousands of migrants in the last few years.

Gentiloni called the deal "just a piece" of a wider plan that will be discussed in Malta and will need economic commitment from the bloc.

Serraj said economic deals between Italy and Libya are being discussed.

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6 p.m.

Greek authorities say eight officers from Europe's Frontex border agency have started patrols on Greece's northern border with Macedonia to deter illegal crossings by migrants.

Police said Thursday that the Frontex officers will be patrolling together with their Greek colleagues.

Last year, the border was frequently used by smuggling gangs trying to sneak migrants stranded in Greece through Macedonia towards Europe's affluent heartland.

But the clandestine traffic has eased considerably in recent months.

More than 62,000 refugees and other migrants have been stuck in Greece since a series of Balkan border closures last year and a deal between the European Union and Turkey to limit migrant flows.

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2:20 p.m.

A decade-old program to resettle a fixed quota of refugees arriving in the small, southern EU nation of Malta to the United States is another casualty of President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration.

U.S. Ambassador G. Kathleen Hill told Maltese media this week that the refugee resettlement program has been suspended for 120 days under the order.

It isn't clear what will happen after the four months have elapsed. Hill said that the U.S. government is "reviewing the program" and the embassy is awaiting "further guidance" at the end of the 120 days.

More than 3,110 refugees have been resettled in the U.S. since 2007 to help ease pressure on Malta from the influx of migrants arriving by boat from northern Africa.

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12:45 p.m.

The European Union chief says that Friday's summit on migration is poised to take a big step in closing off the illegal migration route through the central Mediterranean where thousands have died over the past several years trying to reach the EU from Libya.

EU President Donald Tusk said Thursday after talks with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni that "I can assure you that it is within our reach" to cut off the smuggling routes, as expectations are rising that drownings will increase as the spring weather comes.

Tusk said that "we owe it first and foremost to those who suffer and risk their lives. But we also owe it to Italians and all Europeans." Most migrants coming through Libya are economic migrants with little chance of being granted asylum.