Monday

25th Jan 2021

EU mission struggling in Libya, internal report says

  • Insecurity continues to reign throughout much of Libya. (Photo: Sebastia Giralt)

The EU's mission to Libya, EUbam, has provided a bleak assessment of the country amid strained efforts to shore up its cooperation with authorities.

An internal EUbam paper from mid-September, seen by EUobserver, described the ministries and coordination among the internationally-recognised Libyan authorities in Tripoli as broadly chaotic.

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"Sustainable progress may remain limited in the absence of a political solution, an end to the military conflict and a return to stability," it warned.

Libya has been the main departure point for thousands of people attempting to cross by boat to Italy.

The EU has been working to curb the numbers and send people back to the war-torn country before they enter international waters.

But the 21-page document, labelled "EU restricted", also notes that the EU mission is working with Libya's ministry of interior by helping, among other things, to link it up to Interpol's global police communications system.

It said Interpol may deliver facial identification systems to improve Libya's counter-terrorism efforts in a country overrun by some 1,500 armed militia groups.

It noted that an expert from Europol, the EU police agency, has been dispatched to support the Libyan police in the fight against trafficking and smuggling of human beings.

The mission, which is based out of Tunisia, is managing to send people to Tripoli around twice a week but has yet to find a permanent base given the general insecurity.

Vincenzo Tagliaferr, who oversees the mission, said EUbam's light presence means that it soon should be able to respond to the increasing Libyan expectations of "immediate capacity building support."

"I anticipate that we will be able to enter this phase as of autumn," he said in the document.

EUbam is composed of 18 international staff, with three local staff in Libya helping with coordination and translation.

But it noted that an "incident at Mitiga airport on 5 July" involving some of its staff, meant that it requires an advanced deployment of security personnel. Fighting had broken out at the airport, Tripoli's international, amid reports of people killed.

EUbam now wants to "set-up a security operations room" once mission staff members are deployed in capital.

Among other ideas is a plan to work with the United Nations to set up a "pilot model police station in Tripoli".

It said political infighting in Libya's ministry of defence has made it more difficult to execute an EU-backed security plan in Tripoli.

It noted that the suspension of Libya's defence minister "due to his involvement in the massacre of Brak Shati on 18 May" has made the task more difficult.

In the east of the country, it said events were still dominated by the Libyan National Army's (LNA) fight against the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) and Islamists in Benghazi and Derna.

The LNA is headed by general Khalifa Haftar, a warlord who has offered to help the EU stem the flows of migrants, following his visit to Rome in late September.

Haftar, who is being increasingly courted by Western governments, is a rival to the UN-recognised and EU-backed government of national accord in Tripoli, headed by Libya's prime minister Fayez Serraj.

The paper said the Italians have also managed to broker a fragile peace in the south of the country among the tribes in Fezza, despite the violent clashes between the LNA and the Misratan Third Force.

"A further military advance of the LNA towards Tripolitania cannot be excluded if the political deadlock continues," it said.

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