Immigration:Libya ''not Europe's guardian'' ,NTC warns

25 January, 10:52

    (ANSAmed) - TRIPOLI, JANUARY 25 - The new Libya under the National Transitional Council (NTC) has asked money from the EU to fight clandestine immigration, just as the regime under Gaddafi had before it. Tripoli ''will not be Europe's border guard,'' said Interior Minister Fawzi Abdelali, who requested aid from the EU and neighbouring countries to deal with the flow of immigrants. Meanwhile the situation is still unclear in Bani Walid, a city 170 km from Tripoli attacked and taken by militants yesterday who - according to the local inhabitants - are Gaddafi partisans. A local tribal chief has denied that they are loyalists, but Abdelali claimed that the government does not actually know who they are. ''Libya needs many means to control (immigration, Ed.),'' said the interior minister. ''Libya will not be Europe's border guard. Even if it wanted to, it couldn't.'' Abdelali has requested aid from Europe and nearby countries to deal with immigration flows. More specifically, it has asked for contributions to renovate 19 detention centres and for a border surveillance system.

    The tone chosen is different, but the minister's words bring to mind those said by Gaddafi just a year and a half ago. On August 30 2010, as part of celebrations in Rome for the first anniversary of the Italy-Libya Friendship Treaty, the dictator asked the EU for 5 billion euros per year to stop Africans immigrating clandestinely. Otherwise, he said, ''Europe could become black.'' The minister's words on immigrants have come at a time of large-scale instability across the country. Over the night there were shootouts in Tripoli, with nighttime clashes occurring since Friday. Over the past few days the vice president of the NTC, Abdel Hafiz Ghoga (Gaddafi's former collaborator), resigned after coming under a great deal of criticism, and the NTC headquarters in Benghazi was attacked by former combatants angry with the authorities. The government has had to postpone until next week the approval of the electoral law for the Constituent Assembly due to popular protests. And today Libya's mufti, Sadok al-Ghariani, launched a fatwa via text message to demand that the NTC integrate former combatants into the police and Army as soon as possible. However, it was yesterday's attack on Bani Walid (former Gaddafi stronghold) which led to the greatest unease. Heavily armed men attacked the local militia barracks, killing five soldiers, and then took control of the city. According to some inhabitants, the attackers are loyalists who have raised the green flag of the former regime in the centre. Instead, the head of the Warfalla tribe which dominates in the area, Salem al-Ouer, said that ''the situation is calm today'', and that ''the conflict is entirely local in nature''. In confirmation of the widespread confusion within the country, the interior minister said that the government does not actually know yet who attacked Bani Walid. If it is discovered that they are ''residual elements from the former regime'', threatened Abdelali, the authorities ''will be able to strike''. However, for now the latter are simply words and not actions. (ANSAmed).

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