German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has ruled out any move to accommodate refugees in reception centers in North Africa.
Speaking after a Monday meeting with his Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz, Mr. Gabriel said the idea was unrealistic, because of unstable conditions in countries like Libya and Tunisia.
A refugee-reception arrangement like the European Union’s deal with Turkey would not be appropriate in highly unstable countries, he said. Under a deal reached last year, Turkey houses millions of refugees in return for aid and other benefits from the European Union.,
The proposal to set up reception centers in Libya was made Monday by European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, who said the European Union should make an agreement with the North African countries.
Mr. Tajani also said the European Union should establish a “Marshall Plan” of large-scale aid for Africa in order to avert massive migrant flows in future. “We either act now or 20 million Africans will come to Europe in the coming years,” he said.
Austrian Foreign Minister Mr. Kurz did not rule out the plan, saying it offered a number of advantages. Using the Australian model, reception centers should be set up outside the European Union’s borders, he said. This was the only way to fundamentally combat human traffickers and end the “death in the Mediterranean.” Controversially, Australia sends asylum seekers arriving in the country by sea to be processed and rehoused in centers on small Pacific islands.
Mr. Gabriel said that Libya was very different from Turkey, since there was “no state” there to deal with. “Who would we make a deal with about reception camps?” asked the foreign minister. According to diplomatic reports, refugees would face “concentration camp-like conditions” in Libya.
Mr. Gabriel said Tunisia also had stability problems in the wake of the Arab Spring. “It would be great if Tunisia was stable enough that we could do something like in Turkey, with the involvement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. But we can’t,” he said.