SLAVERY: A migrant sits in a wheelchair as he waits with others before their return to their country, at a detention centre in Tripoli, Libya this week. Picture: Reuters
The EU and AU will intensify co-operation in a number of critical areas, including agreeing to an emergency plan to dismantle people-smuggling networks and repatriate stranded migrants in an effort to ease a human rights disaster in Libya.

This was the pledge by leaders from both Africa and Europe yesterday during the fifth EU-Africa summit in Ivory Coast.

In a closing statement at the end of the two-day summit yesterday, leaders from more than 80 countries agreed to tighten collaboration on four key issues, including migration, security as well as investments in education and sustainable development.

“Never have we been so interdependent. Never did we need to act with so much urgency,” said Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, who was hosting the summit in the commercial capital, Abidjan.

AU president Alpha Condé, who is also the head of state of Guinea, said: “Our two continents are interdependent due to history, geography and our mutual will to develop trade exchanges as part of win-win partnerships.”

“We are finally coming together to seize the accounts of those traffickers. In Africa, in Europe but also in the Middle East,” Condé added.

Images broadcast by CNN in November appearing to show migrants auctioned off as slaves by Libyan traffickers has sparked outrage in Europe and anger in Africa. It shone a light on abuses committed against African migrants seeking to reach Europe, forc- ing the issue to the top of the agenda of a summit meant to focus on Africa’s youth.

European Council president Donald Tusk called the slavery reports “horrifying” during the summit’s opening ceremony and said the issue of migration was a joint responsibility of European and African governments.

French President Emmanuel Macron said late on Wednesday that the plan included the establishment of an “operational task force” composed of European and African police and intelligence services.

“The goal will be in very short order to be able to arrest identified traffickers, dismantle these networks and their financing which goes through banks and payments that in the region contribute to sustaining terrorism,” he said.

The plan emerged from a meeting of UN officials, EU leaders and government representatives from Chad, Niger, Morocco, Congo and Libya that was called by France on Wednesday.

The deal was hammered out at an emergency meeting on migrant slave markets in Libya, a topic that dominated the summit, which was initially supposed to focus on youth development in Africa.

The EU, AU and UN agreed to asset freezes and financial sanctions on known smugglers.

Libya’s government, which has promised to investigate reports of slave auctions, agreed to grant UN agencies access to migrant camps in areas under its control.