Libya against EU migrant plan, ‘won’t accept any boots on the ground’ – country’s UN envoy

Illegal migrants who attempted to sail to Europe, sit in a boat carrying them back to Libya, after their boat was intercepted at sea by the Libyan coast guard, at Khoms, Libya May 6, 2015. (Reuters/Aymen Elsahli)
EU has failed to get a green light from Libya’s government about its migrant crisis plan, the nation’s envoy to the UN, Ibrahim Dabbashi, told AP. Libya is against the destruction of illegal migrant boats and the union’s ground troops on its territory.

"They never asked anything of us. Why should we send them this letter?" Dabbashi asked, referring to Libya’s approval to the request for EU ground forces to get involved.

We will not accept any boots on the ground,” he added.

Libya has been largely lawless since the toppling of longtime strongman Muammar Gaddafi four years ago, with which the EU and US assisted the opposition forces. Since then a wave of migrants fleeing the internal conflict has increased and the EU has been facing a growing wave of criticism for not doing enough to save those fleeing to Europe.

Libya's deputy ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) Ibrahim Dabbashi (Reuters / Esam Al-Fetori)

The problem of illegal migration has been a growing concern in Europe, as more and more people are choosing the dangerous path of crossing the Mediterranean to escape conflict in the Middle East. This year alone, around 1,800 migrants have been killed while trying to cross the Mediterranean, the UN refugee agency said. About 51,000 succeeded in coming to Europe.

EU officials have been putting together a draft Security Council resolution, which would authorize EU forces to seize suspected boats believed to be used for smuggling illegal migrants. The EU wants the have the authority to confiscate the boats in international and Libya’s territorial waters as well as the country’s coast.

However, before any of that can happen, the western-backed Libyan government must send a request, especially if the EU troops are to be involved.

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Dabbashi clarified on Friday that Libya is against the destruction of the migrant smuggling boats because it would be too easy to mistake an illegal boat with other kinds of vessels.

In terms of sending more boats near Libya to improve migrants rescue operations, Dabbashi said that it is a "completely stupid decision" since it would only inspire more migrants to make their way down to the Libyan coast.

The best solution to this problem is to supply the "legitimate" government with weapons, the UN envoy argued. Libya’s government is fighting with rival groups led by Islamist-allied militias, who have gained control of the capital, Tripoli.

Once the government retakes the capital, Tripoli, and controls the whole western area of Libya, I think it would be very easy to stop this flow of illegal immigrants to Europe because we know everyone who is involved in this business,” he said.

Russia has also spoken out against the EU plan to destroy the illegal boats carrying migrants, stating the move goes “too far.”

We think that we should stay within the scope of what we have, roughly what we have for the piracy situation off the coast of Somalia. We have a good precedent, so why not use it,” Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin told reporters on Thursday.

Physically destroying the boats could lead to legal problems, Churkin added. “For instance, if you lease a boat to somebody and then that somebody is using it to transport migrants illegally and then the boat is destroyed, what about the owner of the boat?” he said.