Libya court blocks refugee deal with Italians
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between Italy and Libya in February to stem the tide of illegal migrants fleeing to Italy from Africa, using Libya as a point of departure, has been blocked by a Tripoli court.
The case against the deal, which was signed by Libya’s Presidency Council (PC) chief, Fayez Serraj, was brought before the court by six individuals, including former justice minister, Salah Al Marchani, the Libya Herald reported on Wednesday.
The petition disputed Serraj and the PC’s right to sign such a deal on behalf of Libya’s UN-backed, and internationally recognised, Government of National Accord (GNA).
This is, because according to the Libyan Political Agreement, until it is approved by the House of Representatives, the GNA along with the State Council, has no legal standing.
Hundreds of thousands of Africans continue to flee to Italy and Europe, via Libya, taking dangerous journeys in rickety boats run by ruthless people smugglers in a desperate attempt for better lives. Thousands have drowned before reaching Europe due to overcrowding and treacherous weather conditions, while thousands more have been rescued by the Italian coast guard.
Europe’s bid to limit the flood of refugees included the Italians signing the agreement with the Libyans ahead of an expected surge in refugees during the northern hemisphere’s spring. However, the controversial deal involves forcibly returning the migrants to camps in Libya where there have been wide-spread reports of abuse of the migrants by Libyan militia.
The court ruling by Tripoli’s Appeals Court has blocked any further negotiations and it is unclear how this will affect Libya’s relationship with the Europeans, the Italians in particular.
Shortly after the MoU was signed, the EU held an emergency summit in Malta on migration and agreed to donate $215 million to reinforce Libya’s coast guard and improve the appalling conditions in Libyan detention centres.
Despite these developments, Serraj arrived at this week’s Rome conference on migration with a shopping list of hundreds of millions of Dollars’ worth of equipment, including patrol vessels, vehicles and communications equipment, that Libya wants to fight illegal migration.
Meanwhile, in the east of the country the commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar, has ordered the release of families of members of the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) after the LNA succeeded in routing the militants from Benghazi after they had temporarily taken control of several oil terminals and ports.
Haftar ordered their release after footage of LNA soldiers summarily executing BDB prisoners and parading their decomposing corpses, exhumed from a number of graves, made regional and international headlines, sparking outrage.
The LNA subsequently stated that those found guilty of war crimes would be arrested and prosecuted.
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