Armed Libyan group stops migrants from leaving for Europe

TMP – 10/09/2017

An unofficial armed group led by a “former mafia boss” is stopping migrant boats trying to leave for Europe from the Libyan city of Sabratah.
Sources in Sabratah, 70 km west of the capital Tripoli, said that the armed group in the coastal city works on the beach, to prevent the migrants leaving on boats bound for Italy.

According to the sources, the group is made up of several hundred civilians, policemen and army figures, and is conducting a strong campaign that was launched by a former mafia boss.

The group is also said to be running a detention centre for migrants who are turned back or taken from people smugglers.
In previous years, July and August were peak months for migrant boats departing from Libya for Italy because of favourable sea conditions.

However, compared to the same time in 2016 arrivals from Libya to Italy have dropped to less than half in July this year. August arrivals are down even further.

“The sea was like a lake last week and yet there were few boats,” Chris Catrambone, co-founder of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) charity said.

Migrants rescued last week in the Mediterranean confirmed that conditions had changed in Sabratha, according to Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration.

“They said it was very difficult to depart from Sabratah. There are people stopping the boats before they set out, and if they get out to sea they’re immediately sent back,” Di Giacomo said. Some migrants were also turned back before reaching Sabratha, he added.