Libya’s Tobruk government stops visas to Maltese nationals

Ministry for the interior claims visas will only be issued after security clearance due to alleged return of Libya Dawn fighters

Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al Thinni and Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (Photo: Ray Attard)
Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al Thinni and Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (Photo: Ray Attard)

The Libyan parliament based in Tobruk and supporting Prime Minister Abdullah al Thinni has announced it will not issue any visas to Maltese citizens, unless they are security-cleared.

The House of Representatives exiled in Tobruk – which is recognised by the Maltese government as Libya’s legitimate representative – imposed restrictions on Libyan visas to Maltese citizens.

The Libyan ministry of the interior, based in the eastern city of Beida, instructed chargé d’affaires Habib Lamin, not to issue any Libyan visas to Maltese citizens prior to receiving a security clearance from the Ministry.

The ministry told Al-Beida Libyan News Agency that this was a “preventive” action due to confirmed security reports that some Maltese arriving in Libya’s western cities were offering “logistic” help to Libya Dawn militias – the small armies that support the Tripoli government, mainly made up of Islamist-backed groups that helped drive out the al-Thinni from Tripoli.

“These activities were harming Libyan national security,” it said.

This latest step in the complication of Maltese-Libyan relations comes on the back of a tug-of-war between the two separate Libya Dawn embassy based in Balzan, and the Tobruk-backed embassy that is now located in Ta’ Xbiex, both purporting to represent Libya.

Tobruk also banned the entry of Palestinians, Syrians and Sudanese onto its land on security grounds that they belong to some armed groups in the country.

Interior minister Omar Al-Sanki said the decision was based on a detailed and thorough screening of persons from these three nationalities.

On Sunday, the Tripoli embassy said that visas issued by the Libyan embassy in Ta’ Xbiex, which represents the government in Tobruk, will not be recognised by the Tripoli government rendering them invalid for entry to Libya, chargé d’affaires Hussin Musrati said.

Musrati, who is a representative of the Tripoli government – formed around the Libya Dawn militias –  said his government will be issuing its own visas in the coming days. He also expressed surprise that Malta was insisting on recognising the “illegitimate” Tobruk government and said that no contact was made by the Maltese government with him or the Tripoli government, especially since the Libyan supreme court had declared the Tobruk government illegitimate.

The Tobruk government is the Libyan government recognised by the European Union.

Asked about claims that Tripoli was sheltering IS militants, Mr Musrati said that this was just an excuse by countries such as Saudi Arabia, which was against the Arab Spring, to attack Libya.

IS fighters, he said, were not bearded as seen in the pictures published in the western media.

The news conference was attended by a number of injured Libyans who had been brought over for treatment in Malta in recent months.

Some said that they would be returning to Libya to fight “the remnants of the Gaddafi regime”, with reference to Tobruk fighters.

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