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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact 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.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs