Libyan administration refuses EU military action against suspected human traffickers

Libya’s central administration promises response to proposal of EU military action on Libyan ports

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The Foreign Minister of Libya’s central General National Council (GNC) government urged the EU Thursday to not undertake a proposal to conduct air strikes on suspected human traffickers.

Pointing out that the GNC’s repeated proposals to assist the EU in preventing migrant trafficking were rejected, Libyan Foreign Minister Muhammad Giyani stated that Tripoli’s forces would “confront” unilateral air strikes by the EU in Libyan territory.

“You cannot just decide to hit. Let’s say you strike a particular site. How will you know that you did not hit an innocent person, a fisherman? Does Europe have pinpoint accuracy? So we are saying, ‘Let’s do this together,’” Ghirani said in an interview with the Times of Malta, raising concerns of the accuracy of the strikes.

“We have been doing our best to get Europe to cooperate with us to deal with illegal immigration but they keep telling us we’re not the internationally recognized government. Now they cannot just decide to take this action. They have to speak to us,” he continued.

Inner turmoil in Libya has made it a hub for illegal migrant entry from Africa and the Middle East as two rival parliaments feud for control of the country, leaving internal matters such as immigration in disarray.

The GNC holds greater influence in Libya's internal affairs and economic institutions than it’s rival rival House of Representatives (HoR). However, the HoR based out of Tobruk, has enjoyed a greater audience from some members of the international community and ongoing UN peace talks aim to unify the two bodies.

Ghirani's words came in response to an ongoing debate in the EU Parliament over whether military action could be used to prevent further attempts at migrant travel into Europe.

A draft of the resolution being discussed urged EU leaders to "undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers."

The proposed resolution comes as Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi Monday put forward the idea of “targeted interventions” to prevent migrant travel before the boats set sail for Europe.

A senior EU official told the French state AFP news agency on the condition of anonymity that "You can't be serious about this problem if you don't take Prime Minister Renzi's proposals seriously, though you have to go through the legal and operational issues.”

The debated resolution competes with a second proposal which would see the EU reinstate Operation Mare Nostrum (OMN) and raise a fleet of 2,000 naval vessels to resume search and rescue missions off the Libyan coast.

OMN was replaced last year with Operation Triton, a processing system for migrants that they can apply for for only after they have disembarked in Europe.

The debate in the European parliament comes after 900 people are believed to have died in the biggest Mediterranean migrant tragedy to date as they attempted to cross from Libya into Italy.

Only 28 people survived the crash, two of whom are under arrest for a plethora of charges including assisting illegal migration and culpability for murder.

Following the tragedy, Tripoli announced that the Libyan coast guard captured 600 more migrants who were crammed into several rag-tag vessels attempting to leave the country.

Illegal maritime migration from Libya is a growing concern for the EU as escalating regional conflicts and growing poverty in Africa and the Middle East has led to a considerable rise in migrant numbers.

Nearly 1,800 people are believed to have died since January in attempted Mediterranean crossings, while around 36,000 completed the perilous journey.

The Italian government believes that 200,000 more people will attempt illegal crossings by year’s end.

TRTWorld and agencies