Europe, N. Africa ministers seek to curb Libya migrant flows

North African and European ministers pose following the ‘Central Mediterranean contact group’ meeting on Monday in Rome. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2017
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Europe, N. Africa ministers seek to curb Libya migrant flows

ROME: Interior ministers mainly from the central Mediterranean region met in Rome on Monday to ramp up efforts to curb migration from Libya amid a sharp rise in the number of people trying to cross to Europe.
One year after a controversial deal with Turkey to stop migrants setting out across the Aegean Sea for Greece, the EU is seeking to reach a similar accord with conflict-hit Libya, despite fierce opposition from human rights campaigners.
Just this past weekend more than 3,300 people were rescued from unseaworthy vessels off the north African country, bringing the number of arrivals in Italy to nearly 20,000 so far in 2017 — a significant increase on previous years.
The wave of attempted arrivals continued on Monday, with the Italian Coast Guard saying it had coordinated the rescues of about 1,800 people off the Libyan coast.
Interior ministers from Algeria, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Libya, Malta, Slovenia, Switzerland and Tunisia took part in the meeting, along with the European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos.
The group released a declaration of intent which limited itself to promising increased coordination and information-sharing in a bid to tackle the root causes of migration, as well as combat smuggling and strengthen borders.
“The aim is to govern migratory movements” rather than be governed by them, said Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti.
Libya’s UN-backed unity government has requested €800 million ($860 million) worth of equipment to help patrol its coast and territorial waters, including radars, boats, helicopters and all-terrain vehicles, boats and helicopters, according to Italy’s Corriere della Sera daily.
There is also talk of a Libya-based operational center to coordinate rescues in international waters off the coast, relieving the burden on Rome, which has been forced to monitor and intervene well beyond its established maritime surveillance zone.
Experts say some of the equipment requested by Libya would fall foul of a UN embargo on arms imports into the country.
France’s Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux stressed the importance of making sure the Libyan Coast Guard lives up to its EU training.
Some 90 members of the Coast Guard are currently completing skills training under the EU, and Italy is preparing to return 10 Coast Guard boats to Libya that it seized in 2011.
They are expected to be operational by the end of April or in early May, Minniti said.
The idea is to intercept migrants before they reach international waters and take them to camps in Libya where their human rights would be protected — “a big step forward” from current conditions in the country’s migrant holding camps, Minniti said.
But critics warn against planned repatriations of asylum seekers to Libya, a country where allegations of torture, rape and murder are rife.
Those picked up off Libya and not entitled to international protection would be returned to their countries of origin, Minniti said, without saying what would happen to those who are eligible for asylum, subsidiary protection or humanitarian protection.
Some 40 percent of those who seek asylum in Italy are granted some sort of leave to remain.


Sri Lanka’s president orders execution of 4 drug convicts

Updated 26 June 2019
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Sri Lanka’s president orders execution of 4 drug convicts

  • The executions if carried out will end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment
  • President Maithripala Sirisena says narcotic drugs have become a serious menace across the country with 300,000 addicts

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s president said on Wednesday that he has ordered the executions of four drug offenders who will be hanged in prison soon, amid alarm over drug-related crimes in this Indian Ocean island nation.
The executions if carried out will end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment.
President Maithripala Sirisena told a media discussion on Wednesday that he has signed the death warrants including the days of the executions and sent them to prison authorities.
He said narcotic drugs have become a serious menace across the country with 300,000 addicts. According to Sirisena, 60 percent of 24,000 inmates have been jailed for drug-related offenses. Sri Lanka prisons are built to accommodate 11,000 people.
Sri Lanka last executed a prisoner in 1976. Currently, 1,299 prisoners are on death row, including 48 convicted of drug offenses.
Prison authorities are now in the process of recruiting two hangmen after two others quit without executing anyone.
At present, 26 people have been shortlisted for a two-day training, said Bandula Jayasinghe, an official at the Justice and Prison Reforms Ministry.
Drug trafficking is a capital offense in Sri Lanka, which authorities believe is used by peddlers as a transit hub.
Rights groups and foreign governments including the EU have previously criticized Sirisena’s suggestions to revive the death penalty, saying there is no perfect criminal justice system and the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated.
Sirisena, who visited the Philippines in January, praised President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs as “an example to the world.” Thousands of suspects, mostly urban poor, have been slain since Duterte took office in 2016. Rights groups have denounced what they say are extrajudicial killings. Police say most of the suspects were killed in encounters with officers.
Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist, a religion that advocates non-violence. Sirisena has previously said the country has had positive influences from all religions but tough law enforcement is necessary to curb crime and maintain order.
In April, police publicly destroyed 770 kilograms (1,695 pounds) of drugs seized in 2016 and 2017. Police have seized 731 kilograms (1,608 pounds) of heroin, 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine and 1,607 kilograms (3,535 pounds) of marijuana so far this year.
Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in Sri Lanka, followed by heroin and cocaine. Drug-related arrests rose 2 percent in 2017 from the previous year to 81,156.