Four years since the peak of the migration crisis in Europe, EU-member states still have not found a coordinated, effective solution to tackle migratory problems. Populist and anti-migration governments entering into European politics have pushed the EU to make deals with several countries, such as Libya, Turkey or Niger, to keep asylum seekers away from Europe.
In February 2017, EU leaders agreed on increasing cooperation with Libya to reduce irregular immigration - providing the country with €237m to fund programmes addressing migration challenges. But, after deadly airstrikes hit detention centres this summer around Libya's capital, Tripoli, the EU is now following plans set up by the African Union to evacuate migrants and refugees to Rwanda. The east African country will receive an initial batch of 500 migrants evacuated from Libya, although it is unclear when this will happen, according to the New York Times.
In addition to the Libyan facilities, the EU set up asylum centres in Niger in 2017, designed for the processing of refugees' status and, ultimately, for their resettlement to Europe and other countries. Since then, Niger has accepted over 2,900 migrants.
But, as Niger heads into a presidential election in 2021, their "willingness to cooperate with Libya and the EU seems to have reached its limit," according to Camille Le Coz, policy analyst for the Brussels-based think tank Migration Policy Institute Europe, in an opinion article published by The New Humanitarian.
More than any other EU country, Italy invested significant resources to try to decrease the flow of migrants coming to the Italian costs, mostly from Libya. Italy took the lead in providing material and technical assistance to the Libyan Coast Guard, whose aim is to intercept migrants and asylum seekers in the Mediterranean sea and return them to Libyan detention centres.
According to the Human Right Watch (HRW), the EU in cooperation with Libya is contributing to a cycle of "extreme abuse". Migrants returned to detention centres in Libya "face inhuman and degrading conditions and the risk of torture, sexual violence, extortion, and forced labour," reported HRW.
Italy's far-right League leader Matteo Salvini toughened his anti-migration policy during his 14 months as the interior minister, closing ports to migrant rescue boats, creating laws which threatened charity vessels with high fines or posting racist commentaries on social media. However, the new Italian government, a coalition between the Five Star Movement (M5S) and centre-left Democratic Party (PD), is expected to adopt a different approach.
The issue of migrants is likely to be the first item on her agenda, specially since the PS has pushed for "new law on immigration is needed". "This turning point is good. Now it's time to change Italy," said the PD leader, Nicola Zingaretti. "We have stopped Salvini and the mere announcement of this phase is making Italy a protagonist again in Europe."