UN diplomat accused of 'misleading' over Libya refugee stats

UN diplomat accused of 'misleading' over Libya refugee stats
NGO claims Kobler, head of the UN mission in Libya, tried to 'induce panic' by using the wrong statistics on migration in an interview with an Italian newspaper.
2 min read
15 September, 2016
The numbers of migrants who have died crossing the Mediterranean this year is 'significantly higher'

A spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has accused Italy's La Stampa newspaper of "trying to induce panic" after it published an interview referencing 235,000 refugees in Libya trying to get to Italy.

Flavio Di Giacomo, public relations officer at IOM, told The New Arab that the figures produced by Martin Kobler, head of the UN mission in Libya, in his interview with La Stampa today were misleading.

"The fact that these migrants are in Libya does not mean that they want to leave for Europe," said Giacomo.

"Newspapers publish these kind of statistics all the time in order to induce panic."

Martin Kobler mis-quoted IOM statistics, the group said, in his interview with La Stampa, saying: "There are 235,000 migrants in Libya who expect to find a way to go to Italy.

"It is crucial to re-establish security in the country to counter the phenomenon of human trafficking that is intertwined with terrorism."

Experts believe however, that there will be no great change in the number of refugees arriving from Libya this year as the infrastructure available cannot support it.

"IOM expect the number of refugees to come from Libya this year to be the same as in 2015 -  we have no evidence of any change in the numbers," said Giacomo.

"There just aren't the boats available to get that many people across this year and we cannot say that all these migrants even want to come to Europe."

IOM has recorded 128,000 migrants
crossing the Mediterranean to Europe so far in 2016, which is five percent more than was recorded by this point in 2015.

In total, 150,000 migrants made the crossing in 2015, which was down from 170,000 in 2014.

2016 has been another perilous year for those making the crossing. An IOM statement in June reported that the fatality rate was "significantly higher" than in the same period last year, with 3,000 migrants dead, compared with 1,917 in 2015.