Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Libya to cut back anti migrant efforts unless EU pays €5 billion

A Libyan government minister has said that Libya will cut back its efforts to curtail the flow of illegal migrants from Africa into Europe, unless the EU pays €5 billion per year. Libya intercepts thousands of Sub-Saharan migrants trying to cross its territory into Europe, but feels that the financial burden of trying to protect EU's borders should be shared.

While on a visit to Italy in August, Libyan leader Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi demanded that the EU make the annual payment of €5 billion to cover its costs. The demand was seconded by Libya's Public Security Minister Abdalfatah Yunes Elabedi who told reporters, "If there is no money, there will be no security; there will be no guards [on the borders]."

Speaking to the press after a meeting of North African and southern European interior ministers Elabedi said, "We thought the situation would not reach this point because it would be a disaster for the Europeans. Either they do what they have to do, in which case we will be grateful to them, or they will bear responsibility for their decision."

He added that Libya has already suspended some of its security efforts as part of the funding disagreement. Migrants travelling through Libyan territory, cross the desert to reach the Mediterranean and try to flag-down a boat for the journey to Europe, namely to Italy or Malta.

In the last few years, Libya has improved its efforts to intercept migrants on their way to Europe under and agreement with Italy, it has also taken back migrants who have been removed from Italian soil.

Amnesty International has condemned Libya for mistreating detainees, an allegation Libya has denied. The human rights group, however, says that Libya keeps migrants it detains in inhuman condition, subjecting them to torture, racial abuse and sometimes rape.

Amnesty International went further, saying that the EU is ignoring Libya's dire human rights record and urged the it, as well as Libya and Malta, to take steps to respect the rights of the African migrants. Under a recently signed deal, the EU is paying Libya €50 million for its co-operation, but Libya says it is not enough.

Speaking about the issue, Elabedi added "We have about 4,000 policemen on the Libyan land and sea borders and they have. Vehicles, they have equipment, supplies, expenses and salaries. These are all burdens on Libya.The EU, except for Italy, has until now not offered anything tangible. We are asking them for a specific amount of money as a [compensation for the] cost.”

Source: Reuters, BBC News

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

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