Italy to ask EU to pay Libya to stop migrant departures - newspaper

Migrants rest at a reception centre after arriving on the southern island of Lampedusa, Italy May 11, 2021. REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's government is set to ask the European Union to pay Libya to stop migrant boats leaving its coast, newspaper la Repubblica reported on Tuesday.

The scheme, which the newspaper says Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi may propose to EU leaders at a summit on May 24 and 25, would be similar to a deal struck with Turkey to halt migrant flows from the Balkans in 2016.

Draghi's office was not immediately available to comment.

The report comes after a recent surge in migrant flows from Libya to Italy. The Italian island of Lampedusa -- one of the main landing points for people trying to get into Europe from Africa -- has seen over 2,000 arrivals since Sunday.

The migrants, arriving on small and perilous boats run by people-traffickers, have overwhelmed the tiny island's reception centre and are now being transferred elsewhere in Italy.

The vast majority of African migrants heading for Europe by sea depart from Libya.

In 2019, Rome agreed a plan with other European states to redistribute migrants after they arrived, but the scheme was voluntary and has not provided a stable solution.

Since the 2016 deal, Turkey is entitled to financial aid from Brussels in exchange for hosting refugees -- mostly from Syria -- who try to reach Europe from the Balkans.

The migration issue divides European governments and has fuelled the rise of anti-immigration parties across the continent. In Italy, the right-wing League is part of Draghi's national unity government and is pressing Draghi to take action.

Some 13,000 migrants disembarked on Italy's coasts from the start of 2021 to May 10, up from 4,184 in the same period last year, interior ministry data shows.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante, editing by Gavin Jones and Gareth Jones)

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