Tripoli, 13 May:
The Foreign Minister, Ashour Ben Khayal, has told the Italian government that the lack of adequate security on Libya’s . . .[restrict]borders could result in an increase off illegal migrants into Europe.
“For the moment, the situation is not too bad but we have had indications that it could worsen. African immigrants have arrived at the Egyptian-Libyan border,” he said on Saturday, during a visit to Rome.
“We wanted to give a warning on the matter so that Italy and the EU can address this phenomenon,” he said at a press conference following a meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata.
Hardly a day passes without yet more illegal migrants from sub-Saharan Africa being arrested in Libya. They are constantly being expelled from Kufra, Ghadames and other border and border-control towns. But many make it much further. Last week it was announced that 81 illegal immigrants were arrested in Tarhouna, 31 of them discovered hiding in the back of a vegetable truck.
The issue is of paramount importance to Italy. According to the UNHCR, 45 boatloads of clandestine immigrants have arrived on Italy’s coasts this year, mainly from Libya. Those are the ones that managed to make it. It is estimated that thousands have perished in the voyage in recent years because their boat sank or because of the hard conditions. Last week, seven Somalis drowned while heading by boat from Libya to Malta.
Terzi said that Libya had to come up with concrete ideas to deal with the issue in partnership with other countries, including Italy.
For its part, he said, Italy was looking to increase cooperation with Libya on monitoring illegal immigration and border controls. He said that the Italian government would ask for more funds from the EU at the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Monday.
Illegal immigration was an urgent European issue, he said. “We need a plan,” he said. “We need to get conditions in place rapidly to finance and make available the instruments the EU has, in partnership with the Libyan government.”
Khayal also told his Italian opposite number that Libya has decided to crack down on unruly elements ahead of next months’ elections.
“There are some self-proclaimed militia but which are actually illegal — brigades formed after the release of some 17,000 prisoners armed by the Qaddafi regime.” He said that the Libyan government had earlier chosen not to confront them “in order to avoid bloodshed.” But now “they have crossed the line, creating an untenable situation”. The Libyan government had therefore “decided to move the proceedings to put an end to this situation,” ahead of the elections.
The Italian foreign minister said Libya must to be allowed to descend into chaos and violence. It would be too dangerous for regional stability.
“On security, the spread of arms in the wake of the Libyan revolution is a source of concern for us, given the destabilising effects it has within the country and the consequences for neighbouring countries,” he said. [/restrict]