News / Middle East

Libya Seeks Assistance to Deal With Migrants

Migrants receive help from the Italian Navy  off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa Oct.12, 2013.
Migrants receive help from the Italian Navy off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa Oct.12, 2013.
Earlier this month at least 200 people drowned when their boat caught fire and sank in the rough waters off the coast of the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa.   The deaths focused renewed attention on the trafficking of migrants from Libya to Europe and prompted urgent talks between Libyan and European authorities on how to staunch the migrant flow and prevent the smuggler’s rickety boats launching from the Libyan coast. 

So far this year more than 30,000 migrants and asylum-seekers have reached Italy on traffickers’ boats launched from the Libyan coast.

While crowds of migrants, mostly from West African countries jam entry points into Tripoli and huddle under bridges in the Libyan capital  they are now being joined by Syrians who have come overland from Egypt as well as increasing numbers of Eritreans and Somalis. 

Of the 30,000 migrants who have braved the dangerous crossing from Libya this year, more than 7,500 were Syrians with roughly the same number of Eritreans. Three thousand Somalis also managed to cross. According to Frontex, the EU agency that coordinates European border management, Libya is the main departure point for migrants heading across the Mediterranean to Italy.

Smugglers demand about $1500 for the trip from Libya to Italy although the charges can be much higher.   They also charge based on where the migrants come from, with Syrians reportedly paying the most.  Sometimes boats leave without crews -- there have been reports of migrants just being taken to a boat and told to navigate themselves.

Libya seeks assistance

After holding migrant talks with Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat recently Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan told reporters his government had asked the European Union for more assistance including: “training, equipment, and help in allowing us to access the European satellite system to help us better monitor our shores, our southern land borders and inside the country as well. If we manage this, it would be important for our surveillance,” he said.

Just two days before Zeidan’s plea and his acknowledgement of the difficulty of policing 1700 kilometers of coastline and a 4000 kilometer land border, dozens of migrants, many of them Syrians, drowned off the coast of Sicily when their boat capsized.   About 180 migrants survived the ordeal and told a harrowing tale of being shot at as they tried to leave Libyan waters.  It was unclear whether warring trafficking gangs were behind the shooting or whether Libyan militiamen acting in some quasi-official capacity were trying to force the boat to turn back.

Just two years ago the migrant spotlight was on Tunisia.  Tens of thousands of Tunisians managed to get to Europe before the Tunisian government agreed to take back 100 Tunisians a week from Europe, largely ending the exodus.   But so far there is no such agreement between Libya and EU immigration authorities.  Instead the Libyan focus is on lobbying for more European assistance to police the land borders and patrol coastal waters.  

Libyan authorities say they have deported about 25,000 migrants in the past year.  Frontex is helping Italy to intercept migrant boats, but with a total of four ships, two helicopters and couple of planes, the resources don’t match the challenge, according to the agency’s spokesman Michal Parzyszek.

Since June the EU has also posted to Libya an Italian-dominated border team of more than 100 security advisers to help the Zeidan government set up an “integrated border management system” but little has been accomplished so far.  Speaking on condition of anonymity members of the team said they rarely leave their Tripoli hotel because of security concerns that prevent them from traveling around the country to assess what is needed to secure Libya’s land borders. 

Rights  groups concerned

Meanwhile all the focus on border management and enforcement issues is worrying rights groups, who say the humanitarian aspect of the large migration wave isn’t being acknowledged enough.

In June, Amnesty International called on Libyan authorities to end the indefinite detention of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants, including children, who are detained after arriving in Libya.  The Amnesty report condemned the “treatment of thousands of foreign nationals, many from sub-Saharan Africa,” saying they are subjected to arbitrary arrests and held for long periods in deplorable conditions at immigration detention facilities.

To compile the report Amnesty investigators visited seven of Libya’s 17 holding centers and found “evidence of ill-treatment, in some cases amounting to torture” with many detainees denied medical care.

Amnesty’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said the  “abuse of Sub-Saharan foreign nationals was a hallmark of Gaddafi’s rule and risks becoming a permanent feature of the country.”   The Amnesty report urged EU nations not to enter into migration control agreements with Libya until Tripoli was able to show that it respects and protects the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.  
 
With no agreements in place to regulate migration beyond Libya and not enough assistance being provided to enable Libya’s fragile state to control its borders, migrants are continuing to flock to a country they see as a stepping stone to a better life for themselves and their families.  The flood of migrants has now filled Libya’s 17 holding centers prompting authorities to use Tripoli’s Zoo as a detention center.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid