TRIPOLI, Libya's foreign minister says his country opposes a European Union plan to set up assessment centres for migrants outside the EU.

The plan was drawn up by EU leaders in June as Italy called for more controls on migration.

Mohamed al-Taher Siala of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli said that all North African countries reject the idea. Instead Libya was working with its southern neighbours to reinforce their common borders.

"All North African countries reject this proposal - Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Libya, as well," Siala told the Austrian newspaper Die Presse.

He estimated that about 30,000 illegal migrants were being detained in centres in Libya. He said his government was working with the EU to return migrants to their home countries, but added: "Unfortunately, some of these countries - many west African countries - refuse to take them back."

Siala said Libya was trying to improve security along its southern border by striking agreements with Chad, Niger and Sudan.

He said the EU could also help protect that border by providing technical support such as patrol vehicles, "drones, helicopters and perhaps a few light weapons".

In June, the EU proposed "regional disembarkation platforms" in North Africa, where the UN and other agencies could screen those who have a genuine claim to asylum in Europe.

Those not eligible would be offered help to resettle in their home countries.

The plan was to break the business model of people-smuggling gangs by processing refugees and migrants outside the EU.

The move followed complaints from Italy, which has long been the main arrival point for boatloads of migrants from African countries fleeing poverty and violence.

According to the United Nations, more than 1,700 migrants have died trying to cross to Europe in 2018.

Meanwhile, EU and Arab League leaders have said they are to hold talks in Egypt in February, with illegal migration expected to be high on the agenda.

The League includes Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as well as countries in the Middle East and the Gulf.