Malta and Libya will be setting up units to coordinate operations against illegal migration, the government said on Thursday.
These centres are expected to start operating within the coming weeks, however, the government provided no additional information.
The announcement followed an unannounced trip by Prime Minister Robert Abela, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri and Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo to Tripoli, where they discussed migration with the Libyan government.
The three met Fayez al-Sarraj who heads the UN-backed Government of National Accord as well as Mohammed Sheibani, deputy minister responsible for migration at the meeting in Tripoli.
It was Abela’s first trip to war-torn Libya as prime minister.
Sources said the meeting was held on the back of a new wave of Malta-Libya relations, and a change in approach.
Discussions revolved around the need to push the EU to help Libya to train its coastguard, obtain funding for reception camps manned by the UN, as well as to build a realistic strategy to slow down the flow of migrants into Libya.
"It was a positive meeting, though of course that doesn't mean we've resolved the migration issue," a source told Times of Malta.
"Malta could be Libya's bridge to the EU. We need to stop human trafficking as well as save lives at sea," the source said.
Valletta, diplomatic sources say, has been trying to build new bridges with the Libyan authorities to stem the tide of migrants leaving the North African coast.
800,000 migrants in Libya
In a statement issued later on Thursday, the government said that during the meeting Abela reiterated Malta’s position on the need to address and stop human trafficking. Malta, he added, was facing unprecedented and disproportionate flows and burdens.
Meanwhile, al-Sarraj said that 800,000 migrants were currently in Libya and the country needed an effective long-term and holistic approach.
Both leaders spoke about the need to strengthen cooperation to ensure that lives are not lost at sea and to combat human traffickers on the ground and at sea.
According to Abela, the solution lies in concrete action on Libyan shores and its southern border. This would be done through addressing and stopping human trafficking, rather than focusing just on relocation of migrants to other countries.
Signing a memorandum of understanding, Malta and Libya agreed to set up a coordination unit in each country to assist in operations against illegal migration.
The agreement also stipulates that Malta supports Libya when it comes to financial assistance through the upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us