Iillegal migrants wait on shore after a 2014 rescue by the Libyan coastguard off the coastal town of Garabulli
Iillegal migrants wait on shore after a 2014 rescue by the Libyan coastguard off the coastal town of Garabulli © Mahmud Turkia - AFP
Iillegal migrants wait on shore after a 2014 rescue by the Libyan coastguard off the coastal town of Garabulli
AFP
Last updated: May 10, 2015

Libyans urge Europe to help stem migrant flow

Banner Icon The acting prime minister of Libya's disputed government on Saturday urged European Union countries to help his administration tackle illegal immigration by sending boats for the coastguard.

Mohammed Khalifa al-Guwail also said the EU should "have direct contact" with his government despite it not being recognised by the international community.

"We invite the European Union and the international community, namely Italy and southern Europe, to help Libya, in particular the National Salvation Government in Tripoli," Guwail told AFP.

"They must have direct contact with us to discuss ways of helping stem illegal immigration, and to provide us with boats... and assistance for those (migrants) held in detention centres."

Libya has had two governments and parliaments since Tripoli was seized in August by Fajr Libya, an Islamist-backed militia alliance.

The official internationally recognised government is now based in the country's far east.

Guwail toured the port city of Misrata, east of Tripoli, to discuss with the coastguard their needs and also toured a detention centre for illegal migrants.

Officials say between 5,000-7,000 migrants have been held for months in 16 detention centres across Libya.

Most were intercepted at sea as they tried to make their way to Europe on old and crowded boats, which often run into trouble or capsize, killing hundreds.

The head of central Libya's coastguard unit, Rida Issa, told AFP this month that the force needs "10 equipped boats".

"We use boats and small Zodiacs (inflatable dinghies) to boost our operations against clandestine migration," Issa said.

"But we need another 10 equipped boats" to do the job properly.

On Saturday, Guwail boarded a coastguard vessel for a tour off the coast of Misrata.

Libya, with a coastline of 1,770 kilometres (more than 1,000 miles), has for years been a stepping stone for Africans seeking a better life in Europe, with most heading for Italy.

The situation worsened after the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with people smugglers taking advantage of the chaos that has gripped Libya to step up their lucrative business.

The United Nations says that more than 110,000 migrants transited Libya in 2014 en route to Europe.

More than 5,000 migrants have died trying to reach Europe's shores in rickety boats over the past 18 months.

On April 19, some 750 migrants were killed when their trawler sank between Libya and southern Italy, sparking global outrage and demands for action.

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