Tunisia halted all flights to Libya late last month as Islamist militias took over Tripoli International Airport and jeopardised operations at other locales across the strife-torn country.
The flight ban covered Mitiga, Misrata and Sirte airports.
According to the Tunisian authorities, the August 21st decision was a preventive measure because of the conflicting reports regarding the security situation. The authorities added that the decision came because of Tunisia’s commitment to ensure the safety of all Libyans during their trips back home in accordance with international safety standards.
Egypt as well as Algeria also suspended flights to these airports. More than a month ago, Libyan authorities lost control of the airports as they fell under the control of the battalions of Misrata, allied with the Islamists. These groups now impose their own rules within these airports.
Following the announcement of Tunisia to suspend flights to these airports, the Libyan interim government pledged to provide all guarantees in order to re-open the airspace of some Libyan airports.
“The interim Libyan government received the decision of the competent authorities in sisterly neighbours, Tunisia and Egypt, to stop sending flights to the airports of Mitiga and Misrata, on the basis of the multiple security breaches in the concerned airports, and in order to preserve their national security,” Libya’s interim authorities said August 21st.
The statement read, “While our government stresses its keenness for the security of Libya’s sisterly neighbours, it also expresses its readiness to provide all the guarantees, and to take all possible measures, through the civil aviation authorities and security mechanisms to secure the two airports.”
Mohamed Ben Zekri, an international relations professor, noted that the Libyan government was unable to fulfil this pledge because these airports were still under the control of armed militias, posing a danger to neighbouring states.
“The Libyan government is too weak to secure airports after militants took them over,” Ben Zekri said. “I think that Tunisia has taken a wise decision because most Libyan airports no longer provide the necessary services for the conduct of flights and have become places of chaos and a breeding ground for militant Islamists.”
He added that it was unreasonable for any airline to communicate with airports outside the authority of the state and governed by armed groups.
After the suspension of numerous flights, most Libyans were forced to return home over land. Ramadhan Hamodi came with his wife from the city of Sirte to for medical tests and they were preparing to return home by taxi.
“We thought that the suspension of flights would be temporary and would resume in a matter of days, but it is still ongoing and the company’s employees do not know when the suspension will end,” he said.
“I hope the suspension does not last long because we had to come here for treatment but we cannot bear the hardship of travelling by road,” Hamodi added.
Article by Monia Ghanmi, Magharebia.
This article was originally published here.