Italy, EU prep aid for Libya's fight against people smuggling

Mon Mar 20, 2017 4:14pm GMT

* Equipment, economic aid ready to send to Libya

* U.N.-backed Libyan PM pushes for more resources

* Boat migrant arrivals to Italy surge this year

By Steve Scherer

ROME, March 20 (Reuters) - Italian and European officials said on Monday they are ready to send equipment and economic aid to Libya to help it fight people smuggling, as the leader of Tripoli's U.N.-backed government sought more resources.

Italy hosted a meeting of interior ministers from eight European Union countries, including Germany and France, to strengthen support for last month's agreement to help Libya fight human trafficking.

The prime minister of the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, Fayez al-Seraj, spoke to the group behind closed doors and "asked for more money and equipment," said a source present but unauthorised to speak to the media.

"Now there must be very significant investments," Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti told reporters after the meeting. "There's a total and absolute commitment to do this."

"Migrant flows to Italy unfortunately continue to increase," added EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos. "If there's one country under huge pressure, it's Italy."   Continued...

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