Italy and southern Libyan tribes sign deal to stop migrant flows

TMP – 14/04/2017

Over 60 tribal leaders from the southern Libyan Sahara region have agreed to help stop the flow of migrants heading towards Libya’s Mediterranean coast, in return for aid and development.

The deal has been struck with Italy, which has become a transit point for migrants from Libya trying to reach mainland Europe. Italy has agreed to provide funds for infrastructure,  employment programmes, and scholarship schemes in return for southern tribal leaderscooperation in securing borders along 5,000 kilometres of desert in the Fezzan region.

The meeting in Rome was mediated by interior minister Marco Minniti and brought together 60 tribal leaders to discuss a peace deal between warring tribes.

Minniti said he is confident that “securing Libya’s southern border means securing Europe’s southern border.”

Leaders from the Tuareg, Tebu and Awlad Suleiman tribes are confident they can lock down Libya’s 5,000 km long southern border with Niger, which is the main transit route for migrants from West Africa, so long as aid from Italy is forthcoming.

The chiefs admitted having profited from the human trafficking business since Muammar Ghadafi’s fall in 2011. “Since the fall of the Gaddafi regime, no one has controlled the border,” said Mohamed Haay Sandu, a Tebu leader.

“For many of us, facilitating the passage of migrants has become a way of earning money. The economy is on the brink of collapse. Around 15% of our people work in migrant trafficking. It is the main source of income.”

“Many of our young people are without hope and end up facilitating clandestine migration. But if you give them proper work, they will stop. If we are given aid and development, we’re prepared to stop the business altogether. No one would be able to cross the border,” Sandu said.

Geoff Porter, head analyst at North Africa Risk Consulting, a think tank, believes the tribe’s help will be successful. He said: “The tribes do have the capability to monitor the border and interdict migrant flows from the south.

“It may be 5,000 kilometres long, but there are large expanses of desert that are impenetrable and mountains that are unpassable.”