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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 September 2006, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
EU seeks Libya help over migrants
Illegal migrants in Lampedusa
Illegal migrants often have to be rescued and many perish at sea
The European Union plans to set up joint naval patrols with Libya to curb the flow of illegal immigrants to Malta and the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The EU wants its new external border agency, Frontex, to use Libyan waters and ports.

Libya is considering joining the patrols in return for EU help in monitoring its southern desert borders.

More than 10,000 Africans have reached Lampedusa this year. Malta has also received many illegal immigrants.

Until now, Libya had refused to participate in EU efforts to stem the influx of illegal immigrants, who come mainly from sub-Saharan Africa.

It's going to be effective only if EU boats have access to Libyan territorial waters
Friso Roscom Abbing
EU spokesman

A meeting of the interior ministers from Italy, Libya and Malta, which was due to be held this week in the Maltese capital Valetta, has been postponed to allow for more talks on the technical aspects of possible Libyan involvement.

EU patrols are due to start later this month, involving boats, helicopters and planes, but it is believed that their operation will not be successful without Tripoli's help.

"It's going to be effective only if EU boats have access to Libyan territorial waters," EU spokesman Friso Roscom Abbing said.

Patrols have already begun around the Canary Islands, but have been criticised as having little effect by the local authorities.

The possible involvement of Libya is expected to be discussed during an EU ministerial meeting with all the 25 member states in Finland later this month.

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