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African growth key to stemming migrant flows: Merkel

Prague, Czech Republic | AFP | German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Czech premier Andrej Babis agreed Friday to focus on economic development in Africa to try to slow migration into the European Union.

“We are both convinced that we must achieve a win-win situation where the economic development of African countries will be possible and will give local young people reasons to see their future in these countries rather than having to leave,” Merkel told reporters in Prague.

Babis, who is known for his anti-migrant stance, stood by her side at the joint press conference.

“We are of the view that we must cooperate with African countries, primarily in the economy to enable them to fare well,” said Babis, a billionaire businessman turned politician.

“We are discussing this and I suppose that we have the same opinion on the way to solve illegal migration systematically,” he added.

Babis said he intended to attend a conference in mid-November in Sicily focused on forging cooperation between the EU and Africa on tackling migration issues.

The Czech Republic and fellow eastern EU states Hungary, Poland and Slovakia rejected a German-backed EU plan to introduce a mandatory quota system to distribute migrants and refugees across the bloc, following the 2015 migrant crisis.

EU leaders dropped the mandatory quota plan in June.

They agreed instead to consider setting up “disembarkation platforms” outside the bloc, most likely in North Africa, in a bid to discourage migrants boarding EU-bound smuggler boats.

The deal also includes plans to set up secure centres on European soil to process new arrivals, to sort refugees in need of protection out from economic migrants who should be sent back.

The central European states of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic hailed the agreement as a victory.

After allowing more than one million asylum seekers into Germany since 2015, Merkel was forced this July to agree to tighten border controls and set up closed “transit centres” to hold migrants on the Austrian frontier.

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