Italy, northern neighbors work with Libya on migration

Italy and its northern neighbors agreed Monday to work together with Libya to help implement a new accord to better patrol Libya's coasts and stop smugglers from setting off with their human cargo.

Interior ministers from a half-dozen countries agreed to form a formal contact group on migration, as rescue ships brought to Italy's southern shores some of the estimated 3,000 migrants rescued over the weekend on the Mediterranean.

Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti invited counterparts from France, Slovenia, Switzerland and Austria — as well as Germany and Malta. Those countries have a stake in the accord since many migrants who arrive in Italy pass through its northern borders for destinations further north.

Also attending was Tunisia's minister and the internationally recognized Libyan leader, Premier Fayez Serraj.

"Naturally we haven't resolved the problem because it's clear no one has the definitive solution to the problem in their pockets," Minniti said. "But we have common will. And this common will has a common objective: to not chase or suffer illegal migration but govern it."

The meeting followed on the agreement reached between Libya and the EU last month to train the Libyan coast guard and provide it with patrol boats to better monitor the north African country's shores. Minniti said that the first 90 sailors were finishing up their seaboard training and that Italy expected to deliver 10 patrol ships by the end of April or beginning of May.

The European commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, noted that of the 200 million euros the European Union had allocated for the central Mediterranean migration emergency, 90 million euros was expected to be allocated to Libya. He urged Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt to join the training program.