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Libyan Mayors express concerns regarding migrants deal

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LIBYAPROSPECT – Tripoli

Libyan Mayors from across Libya fear that if the deal between Tripoli and Rome to fund migrant holding centers in Libya is successful it would not resolve the crisis, it would just shift Europe’s Migration crisis onto Libyan land.

Migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa use the Libya-Italy route through the Mediterranean as the main crossing point for asylum seekers and the economic migrants seeking a better life of safety and security in Europe. Italy recorded its highest number of migrant arrivals ever in 2016, with many thousands of migrants dying in the sea.

The Tripoli-Rome deal would entail money for migrant holding centers in towns and cities along the main human trafficking routes in Libya, and will also equip and train Libyan soldiers to fight human traffickers.

Reuters reported that some mayors have not expressed their support but have been rather negative. A mayor from the southern city of Sabha, which is a major people-smuggling hub in Libya told Reuters that “our priority is to support our sons instead of allowing illegal migrants in centers.” He added that “if the Europeans want to enable them to stay, they can have them in their lands, which are larger, but not in Libya because we have our problems to take care of.”

If the Tripoli-Rome agreement is successful it would be contingent on the cooperation of local authorities along the smuggling routes; the Presidential Council (PC) of the Government of National Accord (GNA) does not hold complete influence over many parts of the country. Therefore, if they do succeed in the deal, they would have to get the local authorities on board.

Another Mayor, from the western city of Sabratha, another major Human Trafficking hub and major departure point on the Libyan coast, said that keeping the migrants in Libya would be a “dangerous step.” He added that “the idea of allowing illegal migrants to stay in Libya and providing good conditions for their livelihood is rejected by the Libyans and by the authorities too.”

Many mayors believe that the migrant crisis is too major for the PC to handle and that “the problem of illegal migration must be solved internationally.”

Reuters was told by mayors from the southern towns of Al-Kufra, Murzuq, and Ghat that they were against the Tripoli-Rome deal.

The Italian Foreign Minister, Angelina Alfano, expressed his expectation of such reactions from the mayors, on Thursday. He said that “we got ourselves a good deal, but it is not a magic wand, it does not mean that tomorrow morning all the problems will be resolved.”