81 migrants held in Libya face deportation

Illegal immigrants wait at a naval base in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Sunday after they were rescued off the coast of Garabulli, 60 km east of the capital. (AFP)
Updated 13 January 2018
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81 migrants held in Libya face deportation

BENGHAZI/ROME: Authorities in eastern Libya said they had arrested and would deport 81 migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia who had escaped from smugglers after failing to reach Europe.
The migrants were reported to authorities by an imam at a mosque on the coast to the south of the Libyan city of Benghazi, officials said on Thursday.
“They were arrested in the Zueitina area at a camp of illegal migrants,” said Ahmed Al-Arifi, an official from the department for countering illegal migration in the eastern city of Benghazi. “They were arrested for deportation back to their countries.”
Libya is the main departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe by sea, with nearly 120,000 crossing the central Mediterranean last year.
Almost all leave from western Libya, though departures dropped sharply in July last year when some armed factions began blocking crossings. Most of the migrants are from West African countries, though some East Africans enter Libya through Sudan.
Arifi said a total of 5,686 migrants had been deported from eastern Libya last year, up from 2,912 in 2016.
One of the Eritrean migrants, speaking at a detention center in Benghazi, said he had arrived in Libya in March last year from Sudan, after paying $4,000 for the journey.
He was taken across the Sahara desert to the western Libyan smuggling hub of Sabratha, and waited there with other migrants for about four months before being told the sea route had been closed.
Armed groups began preventing boat departures in Sabratha in July, and a major smuggling group was pushed out of the city in September.
The Eritrean said he had then crossed back through the town of Bani Walid to Ajdabiya in the east, close to Zueitina. Smugglers had demanded another $2,000 for the trip to Europe, but he was unable to pay and fled mistreatment at their hands.
“I wanted to go to Italy to work but unfortunately it wasn’t possible,” he said. “We suffer from severe poverty in our country and there’s a dictatorial system.
“Now because we were treated badly by smugglers we are suffering from illnesses and skin diseases. We don’t want to return to our country, we want to go to Europe.”
Italian coast guard service meanwhile said that 264 migrants had been rescued from a boat off the coast of Calabria, where traffickers have increasingly been using smaller boats recently.
The vessel was sighted by a plane belonging to the EU border agency Frontex and the migrants were rescued off the southern city of Crotone, a spokesman said.
The spokesman said the boat probably came from Turkey. Several coast guard boats and a British ship working for Frontex took part in the rescue effort.
In December 2014 and January 2015, traffickers abandoned about six large vessels carrying hundreds of migrants off the Italian coast after putting the vessels on auto pilot.
The boats had started their journey in Turkey.
“It is rare to see large vessels in this zone, in general it is sailboats here,” the spokesman said.
For Italy, 2017 was a turning point: The country went from large-scale arrivals in the first six months to a sharp drop off, thanks to controversial agreements with Libya, from where many such boats set sail.


Anger in Egypt over $400,000 citizenship

Egypt has been looking to boost its finances and draw back foreign investment that fled the country after its 2011 uprising. (AFP)
Updated 2 min 15 sec ago
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Anger in Egypt over $400,000 citizenship

CAIRO: Did you ever feel like becoming an Egyptian? Well soon you can, if you have nearly $400,000 to drop into a bank account and have lived in the country for five years. 

Keen to boost investment from abroad and desperate for an inflow of hard currency, Egypt’s Parliament this week approved new rules that would allow foreign nationals to apply for citizenship in exchange for a deposit of 7 million Egyptian pounds in an Egyptian bank account.

But the move has sparked fierce debate, with critics accusing the government of selling citizenship. 

“The Egyptian nationality is being sold not for investment, but for other unknown reasons,” said Haitham Al-Hariri, MP.

Some predictions suggest the government could make up to $10 billion within first days of the implementation of the law.

There are already between four and five million foreign nationals living in Egypt. Previously, foreigners had to be resident in Egypt for 10 years before they could apply for citizenship.

Dr. Ali Abdel-Aal, Speaker of the House of Representatives, criticized media coverage of the debate over the new law.  “Egyptian nationality is not for sale,” he said, in response to some of the headlines about the new citizenship status. 

He added that all applications would still go through the relevant authorities, and that the state had the right to reject people at any time.