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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid