Backed by Italy, Libya enlists help of militias to stop migrants

Libyan coastguard threatens Spanish NGO ships as tensions rise in Mediterranean (Photo: Internet)

Under a deal backed by Italy, Libya’s struggling government in Tripoli has paid militias implicated in trafficking to now prevent migrants from crossing the Mediterranean to Europe, one reason for a dramatic drop in the traffic, militia and security officials told The Associated Press.

The policy has raised an outcry among some in the Libyan security forces and activists dealing with migrants, who warn that it enriches militias, enabling them to buy more weapons and become more powerful. In the country’s chaos, the militias can at any time go back to trafficking or turn against the government, they say.

The deal further cements the real power of militias, which since the fall of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 have undermined Libya’s successive governments, including the current one of Fayez Serraj, which is internationally recognized but weak.

European support for the deal would also be startling. The European Union has given tens of millions of euros to Serraj’s government to help it stop migrants. Mainly, the money is earmarked for beefing up Libya’s coast guard, reinforcing its southern border and improving conditions for migrants in detention centers. Funds can also be used to develop alternative employment for those involved in trafficking — though enlisting them against migrants would be a significant stretch of that mandate.


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