Tripoli pledges migrant deportation, armed border patrols to quell EU strike

Tripoli prime minister convenes high-level meeting to commit to the deportation of migrants from Libya and stop them from entering using armed patrols.

Refugees travelling from Ghana are caught in the Sahara Desert by the Libyan border patrol
Refugees travelling from Ghana are caught in the Sahara Desert by the Libyan border patrol

Libya’s national salvation government of Tripoli has decided it will deport migrants in the North African country back to their home countries, in a high-level decision taken on Wednesday.

The Islamist-led Libya Dawn, which contests the authority of the internationally-recognised government led by Abdullah al Thani in Tobruk, convened on Wednesday 6 May to purposely discuss “methods capable of ending this phenomenon.”

The move was sparked by EU plans to seek a United Nations Security Council resolution to be able to carry out military attacks on Tripoli port in a bid to destroy smugglers’ boats.

Thousands have died at sea trying to cross into Europe, prompting calls for wider search and rescue mandates.

“The National Salvation Government is committed to take all necessary measures… of preventing the continuity of illegal immigration, and will adopt all deterring measures against the violators.”

It also said that it would cooperate with the EU and neighbouring countries to stem the flow of migration from sub-Saharan Africa.

In a statement, the Tripoli government said it had followed “with deep concern, the phenomenon of illegal immigration crossing through the Libyan territories into Europe generally and Italy particularly, leaving greater burdens suffered by the immigrants, leading in most cases to the drowning and death of vast numbers among them.”

In a meeting with interim prime minister Khalifa al Ghawi, Tripoli said it would assign the Illegal Immigration Authority to carry out the following:

  • Improvement of healthy and living conditions of detainees up until they are deported;
  • Finding convenient detention sites for women and children in particular;
  • Endeavour to deport the detainees to their home countries;
  • Address immigration source states, such as Mali, Niger and Somali, by the foreign ministry in order to cooperate in stopping the flow of immigrants to Libya through its southern borders;
  • Deployment of armed troops to patrol the sites from where the immigrants travel.

The measures effectively prevent migrants from securing any form of access to request asylum or other forms of protection.

The high-level meeting included the minister of interior, minister of local government, leaders of security bodies, and governors from municipalities on the Mediterranean coast.

The meeting resolved to set up “an operation chamber” to stem the flow of migrants.

The EU’s external relations representative Federica Mogherini will on Monday seek a Security Council resolution to carry out the attacks on smugglers’ boats in Tripoli.

But the move is expected to meet resistance from Russia, which has said it would veto any such military plans.

Even Tobruk’s ambassador to the UN, Ibrahim Dabbashi, has told AP that Libya rejected the EU plan and that his government “hasn’t even been consulted and rul[ed] out EU forces on Libyan soil ‘at this stage’… ‘We will not accept any boots on the ground’.”

Dabbashi also criticised expanded rescue operations: “He called the idea of deploying more boats to the waters off Libya to save migrants a ‘completely stupid decision’ because it would encourage even more migrants to come to his country, further burdening local authorities.”

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