Updated | Italy deputy PM Matteo Salvini wants migrant reception centres along Libya's southern border

Italy’s Home Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, in Libya for a day visit, agrees with Libyan counterpart on the need for migrant reception centres along Libya's southern border

Italy's Matteo Salvini (left) tweeted a photo of his meeting with Libyan counterpart Abdulsalam Ashour
Italy's Matteo Salvini (left) tweeted a photo of his meeting with Libyan counterpart Abdulsalam Ashour
Matteo Salvini visiting the Italian military personnel in Tripoli who are training the Libyan coastguard
Matteo Salvini visiting the Italian military personnel in Tripoli who are training the Libyan coastguard

Updated at 2.45pm

Italy and Libya agree that part of the solution to stop migrants making the dangerous sea crossing to Europe is the creation of reception centres along the North African country's southern border.

This resulted from talks Italy’s Home Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini had in Libya today with Libya's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maitig.

Salvini said the creation of "hotspots" along Libya's southern border would disrupt the "channels of death" run by human smuggling networks.

The Italian deputy prime minister later visited Italian military personnel in Tripoli who are training the Libyan coastguard. The Libyan coastguard was, over the past 24 hours, involved in the rescue of almost 1,000 migrants at sea.

Human rights organisations are critical of suggestions that migrants rescued at sea should be sent back to Libya, which the United Nations does not consider a safe place for asylum seekers.

Meanwhile, 131 migrants remains stranded on the Alexander Maersk, a Danish-registered container ship, just outside the Sicilian port of Pozzallo. The ship is awaiting orders from the Italian authorities after having been asked to rescue the migrants between Thursday and Friday last week.

Another 219 migrants are aboard the Lifeline, a rescue ship run by a German non-governmental organisation, which is loitering some 25 nautical miles off Malta after being refused entry into Italian and Maltese ports. The migrants have been on the ship since Friday.

Earlier

Salvini is on a one-day visit to Libya, trying to solicit support from the government to stem migrant departures.

The visit comes a day after 16 EU leaders met informally in Brussels to discuss migration, which has caused a major rift between member states.

Salvini met his Libyan counterpart Abdulsalam Ashour and is expected back to Italy later in the afternoon.

In a tweet before departing for the capital Tripoli on a military plane, Salvini said his visit was intended to reinforce the “friendship” between the two countries and strengthen collaboration on all fronts, “starting with the migration emergency”.

Migrants arriving in Italy very often depart on large flimsy dinghies from Libya’s vast coastline. Human smuggling networks are rife in Libya and help finance militias that sprouted after the removal of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

EU maritime operations just outside Libya’s territorial waters have tried to disrupt these human smuggling networks, while saving lives at sea.

Non-governmental organisations operating rescue vessels have also been patrolling the seas off Libya to save migrants from the overcrowded boats.

Italy has insisted that the Libyan coastguard should be allowed to carry out its own operations and take rescued migrants back to Libyan territory, something human rights groups are opposed to.

The EU has been training the Libyan coastguard but the volatile situation in the country means that the UN-backed government does not have absolute control on all the territory.

Salvini’s visit, which is the first outside the country since he became home affairs minister and deputy prime minister, comes on the back of significant electoral victories for Lega, the party he leads.

In second-round voting that took place over the weekend in various Italian communes, Lega registered important wins in northern localities that are traditionally centre-left bastions.

Salvini’s Lega is in government with Luigi di Maio’s Cinque Stelle and since taking over, Italy has adopted a hard-line stand on migration.

The country has closed its ports to ships belonging to NGOs operating in the Mediterranean.

Italy has also clashed with Malta on two occasions, over the disembarkation of migrants saved by rescue NGOs.

In the latest case, the Lifeline, a ship operated by German organisation Mission Lifeline, remains loitering in international waters with more than 200 migrants aboard after Italy and Malta refused it entry.

READ ALSO: Malta providing humanitarian supplies to Lifeline, diplomatic talks underway

Italy wanted Malta to take in the ship but Prime Minister Joseph Muscat hit back, saying Malta will not be taking any orders from Italy.

Italy has also traded insults with France over migration.

Within this tense context, the leaders of the EU-28 will be holding a summit in Brussels at the end of this week with migration set to dominate the agenda.

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