German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday stressed the importance of ending smuggling and slavery while creating a legal route for Africans to come to Europe as she faces pressure at home to tackle a migrant influx.
Speaking at an EU-Africa summit in Abidjan, Merkel, is seeking to show Germany can take foreign policy action despite still being under a caretaker government two months after an election.
The influx of more than a million migrants since mid-2015, many of them fleeing the Middle East and Africa, was largely to blame for the rise of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) in a Sept. 24 election.
By taking votes from Merkel’s conservative bloc and others, they surged into parliament for the first time, leaving Merkel facing complicated coalition arithmetic.
She is grappling to form a new government with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) after discussions on forming a three-way tie-up with the liberals and Greens failed.
On the issue of illegal immigration, Merkel said: “This plays a role all over the African continent now because there are reports that young African men are being sold like slaves in Libya.”
Libya is now the main departure point for mostly African migrants trying to cross to Europe. Smugglers usually pack them into flimsy inflatable boats that often break down or sink.
Merkel, who in 2015 decided to open Germany’s borders to migrants, said legal options needed to be created for Africans to be able to get training or study in an EU country.
The summit is due to focus on education, investment in youth and economic development to prevent refugees and economic migrants from attempting the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on Monday that the number of dead or missing migrants in the Mediterranean has risen above the 3,000-mark for the fourth year in a row.