Libya, Italy to join forces against people traffickers

Libya, Italy to join forces against people traffickers
Italy and Libya will set up a joint commission in a bid to fight back against people traffickers and tackle the problem of illegal migration.

3 min read
10 December, 2017
The announcement came after a meeting between Sarraj and Minniti [Getty]
A joint Italian-Libyan commission is expected to be set up, the Tripoli government said on Saturday in a bid to fight back against people traffickers and tackle the problem of illegal migration.

The announcement was made after talks in the Libyan capital between Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti and Libya's Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

Intelligence agents, coastguard and judicial officials from both countries will sit on the commission, Sarraj's office said in a statement.

Human-trafficking networks have flourished in the chaos that followed a NATO-backed uprising which toppled long-time Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

On Thursday, Sarraj said the number of migrants stranded in his country was "staggering... we are talking about 500,000 migrants outside holding centres and 20,000 in the 42 centres run by the interior ministry".

But speaking after talks in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Libyan premier vowed to take action to ease the plight of these migrants, most of whom come from sub-Saharan Africa.

Minniti praised Libya's efforts to rescue migrants abandoned at sea by unscrupulous people traffickers, but said more cooperation was needed to monitor the country's southern borders.

He said central European countries will be providing Libya with 35 million euros ($40 million) within a week to help the North African country in its anti-immigration efforts, the statement added.

Libya has been on the receiving end of international outrage in recent weeks, after US network CNN aired footage of black Africans sold as slaves in Libya.

Libya's UN-backed government hit back at growing criticism, saying in a statement that it was being overwhelmed by illegal immigration.

Illegal immigration and claims of slave-trading dominated discussions at the Europe-Africa meeting in Ivory Coast shortly after the reports sparked outrage.

The heads of nine African and European states, including Libya, agreed to work closely to break up criminal networks and conduct "emergency evacuation operations" of migrants in the coming weeks.

The furore over slavery as well as torture and rape of black African migrants in Libya prompted the select group of countries – which also included Spain, Italy, Morocco and the Congo – to undertake other measures.

The AU, EU and UN officials also pledged to freeze the assets of identified traffickers while the AU will set up an investigative panel and the UN could take cases before the International Court of Justice, he added.

EU officials said the migrant influx, which has deepened political divisions across the EU, as well as frequent attacks in Europe have been a wake-up call to tackle the root causes of why people leave their homes.

Agencies contributed to this report