Libya wants more European aid to fight migration


Libya is calling for more European aid to help it cope with increasing numbers of migrants who enter its territory illegally and sail from its Mediterranean coast to try to reach Europe.

About one million such migrants had poured through its 5000 km (3125 miles) border with mostly poor African states, straining the OPEC member’s resources as it struggles to stop the flow, the Interior Ministry says in a rare statement. It did not say over what time period this had happened, Reuters adds.

Immigration is a hot political issue for governments in Europe, especially at a time of global economic crisis.

The migration issue is also tricky for Libya, whose leader Muammar Gaddafi, the current African Union chairman, wants Africans to endorse his vision of a single African state, modelled on the United States of America, that allows free movement of people, capital and goods within the continent.

Many Libyans, who blame the increasing number of African migrants for spreading insecurity, disease, drug trafficking and other social woes, want the Tripoli government to crack down on illegal migration.

Libya issues this statement to appeal to the European Union and the international community that the Union makes good on its commitments to provide technical, equipment and training aid,” the ministry said.

“The international community must shoulder the responsibility to consider the migration phenomenon as a humanitarian issue that affects many countries across the world and causes the death of thousands of human beings,” it added.

In February, the EU offered Libya €20 million ($25.92 million) to help fight illegal migration.

Border patrols and coastal radar have made it harder for illegal migrants escaping poverty to enter Spain from Morocco, and tens of thousands are now trying to reach Europe from further east. Libya borders Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Chad and Niger.

The EU has been trying to turn a new page in relations with Libya since the north African country gave up banned weapons programmes in 2003. The two sides are negotiating a trade and political pact to expand cooperation in areas ranging from foreign policy to security, fisheries, migration, energy, transport and visas.

The Interior Ministry, suggesting that the aid Libya got from the EU was not enough, said its spending in rescuing, accommodating and deporting illegal migrants totalled more than than 41 million dinars ($32.44 million) for the three-year period to 2008.