Brussels [Belgium], Jan 28 (ANI): The European Union (EU) has been paying other countries to keep migrants away from Europe, according to a report in the New York Times.The report published in September last year reveals that EU paid Turkey billions to keep refugees from crossing into Greece. It has funded the Libyan Coast Guard to catch and return migrant boats to North Africa. Also, it set up centers in distant Niger to process asylum seekers if they ever make it that farHowever, the bloc's approach has been sharply criticized by humanitarian and refugee-rights groups, not only for the often deplorable conditions of the detention centers but also because few consigned to them have any real chance of gaining asylum."It starts to smell as offshore processing and a backdoor way for European countries to keep people away from Europe, in a way that's only vaguely different to how Australia manages it," said Judith Sunderland, an expert with Human Rights Watch, referring to that country's policy of detaining asylum seekers on distant Pacific islands.Instead of addressing the issue, the bloc is seeking to expand it.Tens of thousands of migrants and asylum-seeking remain trapped in Libya's militias control detention centres. The NYT report pointed out that migrants are sold as slaves or into prostitution, and kept in places so packed that there is not even enough floor space to sleep on.In July last year, a bombing at a migrant detention centre brought the world attention to the crisis. However, the centre continues to operate despite part of it had reduced to rubble following the blast with left 40 people dead.In 2016, 181,376 people crossed the Mediterranean from North Africa to reach Italian shores. In 2018, the number plummeted to 23,485.In 2016 the European Union agreed to pay Turkey roughly USD 6 billion to keep asylum seekers from crossing to Greece and to take back some of those who reached Greece.Brussels funding Libyan Coast Guard to intercept boats of the migrants before they reached international waters has been extremely effective but has left apprehended migrants vulnerable to abuses in a North African country with scant central governance and at the mercy of an anarchic, at-war state of militia rule.An estimated half a million migrants live in Libya, and just 51,000 are registered with the United Nations refugee agency. Five thousand are held in squalid and unsafe detention centres."European countries face a dilemma," Camille Le Coz, an expert with the Migration Policy Institute in Brussels was quoted as saying. "They do not want to welcome more migrants from Libya and worry about creating pull factors, but at the same time they can't leave people trapped in detention centres." (ANI)

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