Migrant traffickers brag about bribing British-backed Libyan coastguard
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson vowed on Thursday to help solve the myriad crises blighting the north African state, unveiling a £9mn ($11.6 million) package of aid on a visit to Tripoli.
Johnson also visited the Libyan coastguard to inspect their work after Britain, along with the EU, initiated a £78 million training and funding program.
The EU wants to pay the Libyan coastguard to prevent migrant crossings, trapping tens of thousands of victims of horrendous abuse in the country.
Despite the generous cash injections, thousands of people have made the crossing every day this summer.
Thousands are desperate to escape the lawless North African country, where black migrants and refugees are sold, beaten to death and imprisoned in squalid camps.
In messages seen by RT UK, a source involved with smuggling rings in the Sabratha area of Libya bragged about how they “pay” the coastguard to look the other way – which explains why the EU project has failed.
“Our mission is to co-ordinate illegal immigration trips from Libya to Italy. We have made an agreement together with them (coastguard),” one message reads.
“Our trips are taken from Sabratha beach.
“On the wooden boats one person is equipped and taught.”
The cost of the trip from Sabratha is 1,000 Libyan dinar ($740) – although many pay the money time and time again as boats sink or break down.
RT UK spoke with scores of migrants in June – none of whom recall even seeing the official coastguard.
An unofficial coastguard is used by smugglers, who are tasked with returning boat engines to Libya to be re-used.
A record number of migrants are expected to cross the Mediterranean this year. More than 85,000 arrived in the first half of 2017, while 2,150 people have died attempting the journey.
Messages from the smugglers, shown to RT UK, reveal they are able to track rescue vessels before launching boats.
“We have internet apps which show us the positions of the ships,” one said.
Anti-migration groups have called for NGO rescue missions to pull out – but aid workers in the Mediterranean insist the Libyans would simply take more risks on bigger boats to make it to the EU, resulting in catastrophic mass drownings.
Those who fled their homeland to Libya in search of work now find themselves at the mercy of militias and smugglers, who sell migrants between them as many are caught in the crossfire on the beaches.
Many book their crossings via open Facebook pages and easily available phone numbers.
Boris Johnson insisted Britain must once again become involved in Libya, despite the military action in 2011 which helped topple Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
The UK and France helped the uprising, which led to terrorists and militia taking control of vast swathes of the country.
Johnson said the UK has to be involved because Libya is “the front line
for many challenges which, left unchecked, can pose problems for us in the UK – particularly illegal migration and the threat from terrorism.
“That’s why it is so important that we work with the Libyan government and our partners to help bring stability to Libya, stopping it from becoming a fertile ground for terrorists, gun runners and people traffickers in close proximity to Europe,” he said
The Libyan Coastguard denies collusion with smugglers and accuses NGOs and charities in the Mediterranean of “people smuggling.”