“No 650,000 migrants in Libya wanting to come to Europe”

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Fr Mattia Ferrari, the chaplain of Mediterranea Saving Humans, described as ‘scaremongering’ the reports that in Libya there are about 650,000 persons ready to leave the Libyan shores. His position is strengthened by reports in EU Observer and also in the investigative reports of Italian star journalist Nello Scavo.

Ferrari says that the 650,000 figure represents “the number of all the foreigners in Libya, the vast majority of whom are there to work,” said that Italian prelate. He emphasised that this figure is frequently used to trigger an alarm and to mobilise the readers’ worst fears.

Indeed, an article published by the EU OBSERVER, penned by Nikolaj Nielsen, confirmed this “Libya is home, meanwhile, to some 650,000 foreign workers.”

The 650,000  figure which was cited by the government of Malta in a letter sent on April 13th 2020 to the EU High Representative, Josep Borrell following the Pasquetta Tragedy. Ministers Evarist Bartolo and Byron Camilleri, the Maltese government had asked for “imminent and substantial” humanitarian aid linked to the immigrant crisis. “Over 650,000 people await to leave Libyan shores for Europe as the rate of departures accelerates,” wrote the Maltese Government.

More realistically

The EU OBSERVER said that most of the migrants in Libya are economic migrants “…but many others are in need of international protection, including some 48,000 asylum seekers and refugees registered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)”. It added that Libyan detention centres now hold around 1,500 people – down from 5,000 last year. However, the UNHCR has warned that it expects new departures as the coronavirus pandemic has added another push factor for people to leave Libya.

Ferrari told Newsbook.com.mt that the current situation in Libya is not a mere migration crisis but a crisis in global justice which is causing the migrations to take place. The current neo-colonial economic exploitation is the root cause of the migrations and if the word does not address this injustice, millions of people will be on the move in the next ten years.

The stuff of one’s worst nightmares

Fr Ferrari described the situation in Libya in general and for the migrants in particular. The pictures he paints defy one’s worst nightmares and arguably put even fiction to shame. His comments are poignant:

“Libya is torn by civil war and parts of the country are ruled by armed militias. There are several interests at stake: fuel trafficking, arms running and drug trafficking. The situation for the migrants is terrible. The militias are involved in human trafficking as has been amply shown by the brave Italian journalist Nello Scavo of L’AVVENIRE. In many cases, it is these same human trafficking militias who have control over the Libyan Coastguard. It is they who treat the migrants abominably. Violence, rape and torture are the order of the day in the Libyan concentration camps. And all this happens with the full complicity of our countries who persist in adhering to agreements made with Libya while fully knowing that Libya will not respect human rights.

“Corrado Lorefice, Archbishop of Palermo, a very brave shepherd of his flock likened the Libyan camps to the Nazi concentration camps where the migrants are systematically annihilated with our complete complicity. This is what happens in Libya,” concluded Fr Ferrari.