Libya: 250,000 migrants heading to Italy, UN military advisor

Support for contry's reconstruction needed, 1 million could come

13 April, 21:05

    African migrants wait to receive medial assistance after being rescued by coastal guards on  a port in Tripoli, Libya African migrants wait to receive medial assistance after being rescued by coastal guards on a port in Tripoli, Libya

    ROME - General Paolo Serra, the military advisor to the UN special representative for Libya Martin Kobler, said Wednesday the international community must act to prevent an estimated 250,000 people from being forced to flee from Libya by year's end.

    "Last year 154,000 migrants left Libya," he told a joint parliamentary foreign and defence commissions hearing. "Of those, International Organization for Migration (OIM) figures show 120,000 headed to Italy. January 2016 saw migrant numbers almost double, from 3,000 to 5,200...(this means) we could reach 250,000 by year's end if nothing is done".

    Serra also qualified earlier remarks about one million migrants now in Libya. "I did not mean to say that one million people ready to take off for Italy are now in Libya," he told lawmakers.

    "What I wanted to say is that before the (2011) revolution, Libya had the capacity to absorb up to a million new immigrants from Chad, Nigeria, the Sudan and so forth, who were prevalently employed in construction. Today, security conditions in Libya prevent the need for that workforce".

    Serra underscored that Libya needed support for reconstruction to prevent one million potential migrants from attempting to cross the Mediterranean. "In Libya there are one million potential migrants. "By helping the country to rebuild its economic, agricultural and industrial fabric, these people will no longer have cause to move".

    Serra also said there was a risk of terrorist sleeper cells disguising themselves among asylum seekers landing in Europe. He said that the flows of migrants from Libya could represent "a security risk, inside there could be sleeper cells". 

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