February 4, 2009 / 9:40 PM / 10 years ago

Libya, Italy sign deal to fight illegal migration

TRIPOLI, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Libya, a popular departure point for African migrants trying to reach Europe, signed a deal with Italy on Wednesday to set up joint patrols to curb the numbers crossing by sea, state news agency Jana said.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government took office in May pledging to stem illegal immigration and Italian officials have criticised Libya for failing to live up to previous pacts to help intercept boats crammed with migrants. Jana said the new accord signed by the interior ministers of the two countries would energise efforts to stop illegal migrants sailing from Libya’s coast into Italy.

The accord would complete what it called a previous technical deal reached in 2007 to combat illegal migration, terrorism and crime, Jana added.

Jana quoted an unnamed Libyan navy chief as telling the signing ceremony that “technical difficulties” hindered the country’s drive to fight illegal migration.

Jana said Italy’s Interior Minister Roberto Maroni signed the deal after talks with government officials since he arrived in Tripoli on Monday. “The (new) accord involves joint maritime patrols in territorial waters of Libya and Italy as well as in international waters,” Jana said.

The deal also includes the deportation of illegal migrants by Italy to their home countries and says that Tripoli and Rome should seek accords with African states to curb illegal migration, it added. (Writing by Lamine Ghanmi; Editing by Alison Williams)

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