France to send more boats to Libya’s coastguard

France will deliver six boats to Libya to support the country’s efforts to curb irregular migration, the French defence ministry announced on 21 February.

This action is part of France’s support for the efforts of the Libyan Navy to fight against irregular immigration, the French defence ministry told Ouest-France. Like most other European countries, France has been tightening its control on migration over the last two years.

The French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, made the pledge on 17 February while attending a security conference in Munich with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj. The French minister also agreed to launch a programme which would train and equip the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG).

The 12-metre-long semi-rigid inflatable boats, produced by the French group Sillinger, will be purchased by the French state and delivered to Libya in three batches over the course of this year.

Italy is also reinforcing its collaboration with Libya on border management. Rome has agreed to send four more patrol boats and to support the creation of a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre.

In the last two years, with the help of the European Union and its member states, the LCG has been intensifying its efforts to stop migrants from crossing the Mediterranean. The UN Libya Mission reported that they had intercepted and returned 29,000 migrants to Libya in the first nine months of 2018.

According to UNHCR, in 2019, as of 22 February, the LCG had intercepted 779 migrants as they attempted to make the crossing from Libya to Italy. The number of boats leaving the Libyan coast for Europe has decreased substantially compared to the same period in 2018 when 2,640 migrants attempted the journey.

Explaining the current Libyan government’s stand on migration during a televised interview in January, coast guard spokesperson Brigadier General Ayoub Qassem said: “Those who leave Libya illegally via the sea should be criminalised as it is very perilous to their own lives and those who make it should be brought to justice.”

TMP – 09/03/2019

Photo: Natursports/Shutterstock. A broken down boat on the shores of the Italian island of Lampedusa.