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 Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes 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.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More