Kobler: Over 235,000 migrants are queuing for the journey to Europe from Libya

Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNSMIL
Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNSMIL

The UN delegate to Libya has estimated that at least 235,000 migrants and refugees are on the coast of Libya waiting to cross the Mediterranean to Italy any time soon this month.

“We have on our lists 235,000 migrants who are just waiting for a good opportunity to depart for Italy, and they will do it,” said Martin Kobler, the head of a UNSMIL that is seeking to bring peace and stability to the country, which is divided by rival governments, militias and IS.

Speaking to La Stampa, an Italian newspaper, Kobler said the only way to stop the exodus is to bring together Libya’s competing factions and vanquish IS in their stronghold in the coastal city of Sirte.

“Libya needs a strong army, police and coast guard to be able to take on the smuggling gangs who make millions of pounds trafficking men, women and children across the sea to the shores of Italy.” He explained to the Italian newspaper.

“Very soon, IS will no longer have control over territory in Libya,” Kobler said, adding that Al-bunyan Al-Marsous operation fighters have so far cornered the terrorists in a very narrow area in Sirte and ready to eradicate hem.

“This is quite encouraging and could give hope to the country. At the same time, however, we need to stay vigilant, because terrorism is not finished and IS militants will try to disperse to other regions.”

So far this year, more than 128,000 migrants have reached Italy from the Libyan coast, straining to the limit Italy’s capacity to accommodate them and process their asylum applications.

Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord, which is based in the capital, Tripoli, is struggling to assert its authority. It is opposed by a rival administration based in the east of the country, which is supported by Khalifa Haftar.

Attempts by Haftar’s forces to secure oil installations are “very worrying,” Kobler concluded.

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