Tuesday

23rd Apr 2019

Libyan faction threatens EU with migrant boats

  • Migrants in a Libya detention centre: The GNC echoed Gaddafi's threat from five years ago (Photo: Internews Network)

One of the two rival authorities in Libya has threatened to send migrants to Europe unless the EU recognises its legitimacy.

Jamal Zubia, a spokesman for the General National Congress (GNC), told The Telegraph, a British daily, in an interview published on Monday (2 November): "I have advised my government many times already that we should hire boats and send them [migrants] to Europe."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"We are protecting the gates of Europe, yet Europe does not recognise us and does not want to recognise us. So why should we stop the migrants here?".

He noted the GNC has no immediate plans to take the step.

"Every day we catch hundreds of them, even though we do not have the necessary resources, and pay for their food and medical services, even when hundreds of thousands of them are here. It is a strategic threat, yes, but I would not rule out us doing it one day," he said.

He recalled that Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's late leader, at a summit in 2010, managed to extract promises of EU aid after threatening that "Europe will become black".

"Gaddafi made this threat and brought Europe to its knees … You need to remember that we are doing your protection for you. We cannot stay forever doing this craziness, spending lots of money on nothing," the GNC spokesman said.

The EU and the UN have recognised the House of Representatives, a rival faction based in Tobruk in eastern Libya, as the country's legal government.

Its refusal to acknowledge the GNC, which holds sway in Tripoli and in coastal areas where most migrant boats embark to Europe, has attracted criticism.

Vincenzo Camporini, Italy's former defence chief, told EUobserver in July: "The EU should be more flexible, more realistic, in its discussions with local authorities."

"If I was a leader in Tripoli, I wouldn't trust the international community. The fact we recognise Tobruk and don't recognise Tripoli means they have a lower status at the negotiating table and this isn't bringing any fruitful results."

For his part, Bernardino Leon, a UN envoy, has proposed a plan for a Tobruk-led unity government.

The EU, as well as Algeria, Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the US, endorsed the model. But both the GNC and the House of Representatives have rejected it so far.

The EU has also launched a naval mission, Operation Sophia, to capture migrant smugglers and their boats in international waters near Libya.

It has drawn up plans to deploy Sophia in Libyan waters, to send in civilian peace monitors, to increase financial aid, and to send back its border control mission, Eubam Libya, into the country.

But the extra steps are conditional on the unity deal being put in place.

Masked Men

Meanwhile, the fragmentation of Libya following the fall of Gaddafi, in 2011, amid EU states' and US air strikes, goes beyond Tobruk and Tripoli.

The Telegraph, last month, also interviewed members of the Masked Men, a vigilante militia in Zuwara, in western Libya, which is targeting human smugglers.

Adam Abza, the group's spokesman, said: "Europe will not find a single illegal migrant coming from Zuwara in the Mediterranean now. But we are doing a job that Europe should really be doing itself."

The group began its work in reaction to the number of dead bodies of migrants being washed up on the beach.

Abza compared the smugglers to Latin American cartels in terms of their wealth and sense of impunity.

"The gangs … [were] driving openly in the streets with cars full of migrants. It was like watching cocaine cartels in south America: they were buying nice houses and fancy cars, and showing off by eating in good restaurants, with pistols strapped in their waists," he said.

For its part, the UN refugee body, the UNHCR, noted, also on Monday, that some 220,000 people made the Mediterranean crossing to Europe last year.

Fish taboo

The number has jumped to 744,175 so far this year, including 218,340 in October alone. The number of drownings has reached 3,440.

The majority of crossings and deaths are taking place in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece.

But the Masked Men told The Telegraph the amount of bodies in Zuwara’s waters has made local people reluctant to eat fish because of concerns they feed on human flesh.

EU and Africa to clash on readmissions

European and African leaders want different things from next week’s migration summit in Malta, as the EU lowers its humanitarian ambitions.

EU seeks mini-trade detente with US

EU states have agreed to open trade talks with the US in a bid to rebuild relations with their oldest partner on the world stage.

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us