According to Libya's deputy Foreign Minister, Mohammed Tahar Sila, "when illegal immigrants are returned to Libya, our mission is to contact the different embassies to verify their nationality and get them a travel visa. Afterwards we repatriate them to their country of origin. We are very happy that Italy cooperates with us by financing some of these return flights". The delegation learned that Rome has also paid for a migrant detention camp 20 kilometres from Tripoli and plans to fund another two such centres.
"We were positively surprised" by the level of cooperation shown by the Libyans, head of the delegation Simon Busuttil told journalists on December 8. He said, for example, that when they visited a detention centre in Tripoli, they were allowed to select detainees and interview them. Mr Busuttil insisted "we are not here to point the finger at Libya or to ask them to police Europe's borders. We are here to seek cooperation on a common problem". As much as 20% of the Libyan population are immigrants while Libya only has two boats to patrol its 2,000km of coastline, he noted. "So far, Libya has had little political incentive to police its maritime borders", he said, adding that the EU needed to help Libya to control both its coastline and its land borders to the south.
After interviewing migrants in one centre, Green MEP Helene Flautre (France) voiced concern about whether people eligible to apply for political asylum had the chance to do so. Libyan Interior Minister Nasr Mabruk Abdullah claimed that 97% of immigrants who cross into Libya do so for economic reasons and that only 3% need international protection. Libya has not yet signed up to the 1951 Geneva Convention on refugees, although it is drafting asylum legislation.
The visit was a follow-up to an EP delegation visit to a detention...