The Malta Independent 23 January 2021, Saturday

Most migrants fleeing through Libya go through Tripoli controlled territory - Minister George Vella

Sunday, 24 May 2015, 14:55 Last update: about 7 years ago

Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella participated in the 24th EU-Gulf Cooperation Council meeting held in Doha, Qatar, on 24 May 2015 and stressed that the majority of refugees are fleeing to Europe through Tripoli controlled areas of Libya.

This meeting brought together all 28 EU Member States as well as all six Gulf Member States to discuss issues of mutual importance. Ministers discussed developments in Yemen, Iran, Iraq and Syria, counter-terrorism, as well as Libya, which remains a highly important item for Malta. Minister Vella spoke about Libya, noting recent developments in the country as well as its impact on the Mediterranean, including on migration in the Mediterranean

The Foreign Affairs Minister said -  "Malta has been watching the situation in Libya very closely since the very beginning. The overall picture is bleak, but there are still faint rays of hope we can cling to. Over the last months it was positively noted that important regional partners became increasingly engaged in the whole process. In our assessment of Libya, there are two important developments which though not mutually exclusive, are very interrelated. I am referring to the political situation and to the phenomenon of illegal migration".

"Illegal migration from Libya was already a problem before 2011, and the fall of the Gaddafi regime. Now it has reached alarming proportions. The tragic drowning of well over 3,000 persons so far this year including 800 in one incident in April is most shocking and weighs heavily on our conscience. The European Council meeting on migration of 23 April sent a strong signal of the EU's resolve to combat human smuggling and trafficking".

"The European Commission has just presented a new "European Agenda on Migration" which we are all still studying how to implement. I hesitate to say that when it comes to this Agenda's recommendation to the proportionate distribution of refugees, we are already seeing that a number of European Member States, for various reasons, are registering their disagreement and are reluctant to accept their allotted quotas".

"The European Council also decided to immediately strengthen the EU's presence at sea through beefing up and better financing of operations TRITON and POSEIDON. Most importantly, a decision has been taken to inspect, seize and render inoperable smugglers' vessels on high seas, territorial waters, internal waters and if need be onshore. As the High Representative knows very well agreeing on a draft resolution at the UN Security Council, under Chapter VII, is no easy matter".

"On this issue Libya's consent is crucial. Up to now, no consent is forthcoming from the legitimate government in Tobruk. Besides, it has also to be pointed out that migrants are leaving mostly from the western side of Libya - mostly Zuwara - 60 kilometres west of Tripoli, a region where the House of Representatives has practically no influence or control whatsoever. This area is under control of the GNC of Tripoli. Be that as it may, I strongly believe that the EU must launch a serious, well-organized, comprehensive system of legal migration catering for both permanent and for temporary stays".

"When it comes to the political situation the picture is also worrying. The term of the Parliament in Tobruk expires in October and whilst this side has accepted Bernardino Leon's UNSMIL proposal, the GNC in Tripoli sees these proposals as too biased in favour of the other side. The stumbling blocks are still many including naming a Prime Minister and deputies, the position of Haftar, and the role of the militias".

A number of bilateral meetings were also held with delegations from GCC Member States.

This meeting is the latest held with GCC states at Ministerial level, following the 2013 meeting in Bahrain. Minister Vella noted that these meetings are important to establish deeper contacts with the Gulf States, particularly at this challenging time for the region as a whole. Like the European Union, GCC Member States have an important role to play in stabilizing the region, including the Mediterranean, and it was therefore in our mutual interest to maintain high level contacts.

In his statement, Minister Vella stressed the importance of supporting the efforts of UN SRSG Bernardino Leon and to the formation of a national unity government. The Minister also noted the important decisions reached at the European Council on 23 April 2015 with regard to tackle the tragic situation of migrants in the Mediterranean. 

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