Recent CNN report about markets of African migrant slave has drown regional and international criticism, which might eventually lead to the international community intervening in Libya to protect the rights of stranded migrants.
“The migration of Africans through Libya cannot be eradicated. It can only be managed and its negative effects can be treated,” Col. Zayed Arhoumah, a former associate of the Libyan anti-illegal immigration department.
European and African leaders decided to make “emergency deportations from Libya” for migrants, who are victims of human trafficking, to their countries of origin.
Arhoumah said the Europeans opposed a plan to forcibly deport migrants from Libya. “They even demanded Libya not to forcibly deport migrants,” pointing out a “great contradiction” that the actual process showed deportation of migrants “forcibly, not voluntarily.”
“The international community is completely untrue in its intentions,” he said.
According to the plan announced by French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the Euro-African summit in Abidjan in November, work will also be on dismantling smuggling networks and freezing bank accounts of smugglers, provided that the African Union will set up a committee to investigate allegations of migrants slave markets in Libya.
The plan adopted by France did not specify the timing and mechanisms for the evacuation.
Ayob Qassem, spokesman of the Libyan navy, said the French plan was suspicious and might lead to military intervention under the pretext of protecting migrants.
“We are afraid of any international action or intervention, even if limited. France was supposed to support international organizations to deport them, protect Libya’s southern borders, and close borders of Libya’s neighboring countries such as Chad and Niger, especially with its military presence in these countries,” Qassem said.
“Any international initiatives that do not pressure Libya’s neighboring countries, which are the basis of immigration to us, should be rejected. Frankly, France has a suspicious role in Africa, especially as immigrants depart publicly from Chad and Niger, where it has the necessary military force to stop their flow to us,” Qassem added.
France has tried to reduce fears of military action in Libya, but stressed that an African force should carry out the task of deporting migrants.
“There will be no French military intervention,” French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said in a press statement last week, stressing the importance of an African military force capable of intervening, for which France and the European Union would provide intelligence and technical support.
“Libya is in a state of chaos, and there is a responsibility,” Griveaux said. “Today, people are dying. These initiatives should have been taken in European context.”
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, confirmed that there was no military branch of the working group formed on the sidelines of the Euro-African summit on Libya. She pointed out that the group’s mission was only to carry out rapid evacuations of a large number of migrants abused in Libya.
Fears still exist despite the European Union’s words, as Libya worries that the French president’s plan to deport migrants might escalate to a military intervention.
Jalal Al-Fituri, a law professor in Libya, said any process of deporting migrants from Libya will face “logistical and military challenges, which should not be overlooked at all.”
“The French plan is very complex. Practically, no part of it can be implemented, because Europe will face a significant challenge on what forces would implement the plan within the politically divided Libya,” Al-Fituri said.
“In best case scenario, no Libyan force will be able to confront smuggling networks that have more weapons than an entire army. Therefore, Europe and France in particular will consider sending special units to facilitate access to immigration detention centers outside the control of authorities,” Al-Fituri explained.
Khalid Turjuman, chairman of the Libyan National Action Group, questioned the France’s intentions and abilities to implement such a plan, describing it as a “maneuver between European parties.”
France has a foothold in southern Libya, and any movement there is predictable and not excluded, Turjuman said.
He described the French desire to move in Libya as an “attempt to take advantage of the political stalemate and to place Paris in as important figure in Europe.”
“I wonder how a migrant from Africa can afford their risky trip, which costs about 3,000 U.S. dollars,” Turjuman asked, saying that this amount can already earn them a decent life in their countries of origins.
“Who enabled smuggling gangs to fund their activities in Libya, to finance their operations in favor of foreign intelligence, after the gangs’ sources of their funding from the treasury of the Libyan state was cut?” he said.
CNN published a report recently of auctions in different parts of Libya, where stranded African migrants were sold as slaves for as little as 400 U.S. dollars.
The alleged slave trade in Libya was condemned regionally and internationally. International organizations expressed concern for the violations against migrants in Libya.
Turjuman said the solution to illegal migration is to “support the Libyan army to eliminate, or at least limit the flow of illegal immigration.”
Arhoumah believes that solutions are possible, beginning with a solid security initiative and plan, and unification of anti-illegal immigration agencies in the east and west of Libya, in order unite all possibilities available to help deport migrants.
“Between 1992 and 1994, we were repatriating migrants to Algeria via Ghadames border. We did not allow them to come back. They were quickly brought from the country they entered from as soon as they arrived in Libyan territory. Therefore, control over our southern borders must be strengthened. As long as our doors are open to immigrants, they will not stop coming,” Arhoumah said.
Nevertheless, it is viewed that regardless of the type and form of international intervention in Libya to resolve the crisis of stranded migrants, the way to carry out any humanitarian or military action will face great challenges, as Libya is politically divided.