Originally appeared at DW, translated by Andrew Pucik exclusively for SouthFront; Edited by Desi Tzoneva
To this day, many boats with refugees are setting off to Europe from Libya. Libyan Prime Minister al-Sarraj, declared his readiness to support the European Union (EU) in the struggle against traffickers. He furthermore hopes for help from the Libyan Navy.
Prime Minister, Fajes al-Sarraj, declared his readiness to cooperate with Germany, Italy, and the EU against these networks, “So we can save the refugees and defeat the smugglers.” The EU should exercise pressure on neighbouring states such as Chad, Niger and Mali “so the borders will function and be taken seriously,” said al-Sarraj to news magazine, Der Spiegel. The border patrols on both sides need more training.
The head of state also expressed hope that the EU will modernise Libya’s Navy in the framework of ’Operation Sophia’, so that they will be able to do their part. Currently, the Libyan Navy is “very weak”, said the 56-year old politician, who has been at the highest position of the new unity government since March 2016. Al-Sarraj has generally desired more Western support. After the toppling of the longstanding head of state, Muammar al-Qaddafi, the West has simply “let Libya down”, he complained. The country has stood alone with its economic, societal, and political problems.
There are a large number of refugee-smuggling groups which do business in Libya. In the past few years, over 150,000 migrants have come over the central Mediterranean Sea route to the EU. Libya is a key country on the refugee route from Africa towards Europe. According to estimates, more than a hundred thousand people are waiting on the coast for illegal transit. The EU launched a multinational military coalition in 2015, ’Eunavfor Med Operation Sophia’, to track down smugglers on the Mediterranean and to save shipwrecked refugees.
Since October 2015, the German naval infantry has been allowed to engage the criminal networks with weapons. However, smugglers bring the refugees only a few miles into international waters and then send an emergency call. Only on Thursday, the German Navy rescued 49 refugees on the Mediterranean Sea. The Operations Command of the Bundeswehr shared that the supply ship, Werra, was relied on to support two non-governmental organisation ships with the rescuing of refugees on wooden boats. The deployment of the Werra has also uncovered a further wooden boat with 27 refugees as well as an uncovered boat with four fishermen and a dead child. The Werra later took 22 more people from the British research vessel, Enterprise. According to several sources, the Bundeswehr has rescued a total of 17,540 people since the beginning of their deployment to the Mediterranean Sea at the start of May 2015.
Rival Government in the East
The United Nations (UN) supported unity government based in Tripoli has since attempted to solidify its power in the capital city and to bring the entire Libya under its control. In the east of the country, however, there is a rival government which does not recognise the unity government.
After the toppling and the death of Libyan leader, al-Qaddafi, during the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) deployment in Libya, the country was thrown into chaos. Since then, various armed militias have dominated the oil-rich country. The jihadist Islamic State has used the unpredictable situation in Libya to expand its influence, mainly in Sirte, Qaddafi’s home city. The USA is currently launching aerial attacks against Sirte. In other cities, there are still repeated attacks, such as in Benghazi recently, where 22 people were killed in a car bomb explosion.