German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged greater support for Libya’s UN-backed unity government and called for a closer cooperation in addressing the refugee crisis.
“We do not want a Libya that becomes a plaything for international interests,” Merkel stressed at a joint news conference with Fayez al-Sarraj, head of Libya’s UN-backed unity government, following their talks on Thursday in Berlin.
She said Germany was ready to increase its support for UN-led efforts in Libya, with the hope that Libyan people would be in a position to address their own problems and define their future.
Expressing grave concern over the poor living conditions of over 500,000 undocumented migrants in Libya, Merkel urged authorities to cooperate with the UN.
“I have called on the prime minister to grant access to international organizations UNHCR [UN refugee agency] and IOM [International Organization for Migration] with the goal of improving the terrible conditions in the camps. Germany will provide financial support for the work of these organizations, “ she said.
Berlin announced earlier this week that it was planning to allocate additional €120 million ($141 million] for refugee programs in Libya.
Merkel said Germany was also to provide financial support for the programs facilitating the return of undocumented migrants from Libya to their home countries in Africa.
Sold into slavery
US television network CNN reported last month that many African migrants in Libya had been captured by local criminal gangs and sold into slavery in lawless regions near Tripoli.
Al-Sarraj stressed on Thursday that his government has begun an investigation into this claims, and the commission investigating them would release a report soon.
“We will not tolerate such violations,” he stressed.
Al-Sarraj noted that nearly 20,000 undocumented migrants were currently residing in government-run shelters, and many of the migrants were in areas outside those controlled by the government.
Asked about proposals to send EU police or special forces to Libya to rescue migrants believed to have been captured by local criminal gangs, Al-Sarraj rejected this suggestion.
“We do not believe that there is a military solution here,” he said and added that he also said as much to French President Emmanuel Macron.
In recent years, Libya has become a transit hub for undocumented African migrants seeking greener pastures in Europe, whose number is intimated at around 700,000.
Some of the migrants end up being recruited by armed militias or exploited by local terrorist groups.
Libya has remained dogged by violence and chaos since 2011 when a bloody uprising led to the ouster and death of longtime President Muammar Gaddafi after more than four decades in power.
The ensuing power vacuum led to the emergence of several competing seats of government and a host of heavily-armed militia groups.