Libya forces may be colluding with migrant smugglers: UN report

Members of the Libyan Special Forces, loyal to the country's east strongman Khalifa Haftar, patrol the streets in the eastern city of Benghazi on September 19, 2017, in a bid to assist local security forces in their mission.
Updated 06 February 2018

Libya forces may be colluding with migrant smugglers: UN report

UNITED NATIONS: Human trafficking is on the rise in Libya, according to a report by a UN panel of experts which found that Libyan forces may be helping rebel groups tighten their control of smuggling routes.
The confidential report sent to the UN Security Council also said the Daesh group is seeking to join migrant smugglers in southern Libya after it was pushed out of Sirte in 2016.
“Human trafficking is on the rise in Libya, resulting in major human rights violations,” said the 157-page report by the panel of experts, seen by AFP on Monday.
The panel raised concern “over the possible use of state facilities and state funds by armed groups and traffickers to enhance their control of migration routes.”
Libya has long been a transit hub for migrants, but smugglers have stepped up their lucrative business in the years that followed the 2011 ouster of Muammar Qaddafi.
The fate of migrants has come under intense security since film footage emerged last year of Africans auctioned off as slaves in Libya, drawing outrage from African governments.
The report cited accounts from Eritrean migrants who were arrested in 2016 in Tripoli by agents of a special force affiliated to Libya’s interior ministry who handed them over to migrant smugglers “against payment.”
Four Bangladeshi migrants arrested by the Special Deterrence Force (SDF) in Tripoli were held in a government detention center in 2015 even though they held valid work visas.
The migrants paid $300 US each to the SDF and were sent to another Libyan city where they were loaded on boats for Europe “against their will,” the report said.
“The panel is assessing whether the SDF’s leadership was aware of collusion and trafficking being conducted within its ranks,” said the report.
The UN-backed authorities in Libya have set up a department to combat illegal migration (DCIM) which is responsible for 24 detention centers and a staff of 5,000.
“According to international agencies, the DCIM has no control over its detention centers,” said the report.
A minister of the UN-backed government of national unity admitted to the panel that “the armed groups are stronger than the authorities in handling the flow of migrants.”
The panel found that Daesh cells “continue to operate in central and southern Libya” despite their defeat in Sirte.
Mostly comprised of foreign fighters, Daesh has recently been trying to re-establish a foothold further south, sending envoys with “large quantities of cash” to develop contacts, said the report.
The “emissaries also tried to link up with smuggling groups, offering protection and seeking long-term sources of financing,” it said.
Despite international backing, the government in Tripoli has been unable to assert its authority in the east, where a rival group is refusing to recognize the UN-backed administration.
The report raised questions about “diversion of public funds” through fuel smuggling and letters of credit in the oil-rich country.
“A political solution in Libya remains out of reach in the near future,” said the report. “Military dynamics in Libya and conflicting regional agendas show a lack of commitment to a peaceful solution.”

Iran scrambles for European lifeline

A special meeting of the Joint Commission of parties to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) on Iran’s nuclear deal is in progress in Vienna. (Reuters)
Updated 25 min 59 sec ago

Iran scrambles for European lifeline

  • ‘Noose is tightening on Tehran’ in face of US sanctions, expert tells Arab News
  • US President Donald Trump has long criticized the deal with Iran saying it failed to do enough to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

JEDDAH: Signatories of the Iran nuclear deal met in Vienna on Friday in a bid to save the agreement after Washington’s dramatic withdrawal earlier this month.

For the first time since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) came into force in 2015, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany gathered — at Iran’s request — without the US, which pulled out of the agreement on May 8 and said it would reinstate sanctions.

US President Donald Trump has long criticized the deal with Iran — concluded under his predecessor Barack Obama — saying it failed to do enough to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Speaking to AFP after Friday’s meeting, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi, said: “We are negotiating... to see if they can provide us with a package that can give Iran the benefits of sanctions lifting.” 

“Practical solutions” were required to address Iran’s concerns over its oil exports, banking flows and foreign investment in the country, he said.

Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov struck an upbeat note after the meeting, saying: “We have all the chances to succeed, provided we have the political will.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh told Arab News that it would be against Europe’s interests to stay in the deal.

“The European nations should be cognizant of the fact that the beneficiary of the nuclear deal is Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its militias,” he said. “Staying in the deal or submitting to the Iranian regime’s new demands will inflict damage on the EU’s geopolitical and national security interest in the short and long term.”

The EU could not thwart or skirt US primary and secondary sanctions against Iran, he said. Rafizadeh said Iran’s hard-liners were attempting to obtain concessions from the EU by threatening to pull out of the JCPOA.

“But from the perspective of the Iranian leaders, giving concessions means weakness. And although Iran is playing tough, it needs the deal to support Bashar Assad and its proxies.

“The European governments should be aware that the Iranian leaders — moderates and hard-liners — are playing a shrewd tactical game.

“The regime is playing a classic ‘good cop, bad cop’ game. The moderates set the tone on the international stage through their shrewd diplomatic skills and softer tone, while the hard-liners take a tougher stance to help the moderates win more concessions,” said Rafizadeh.

Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said the noose was tightening on Tehran.

“European firms simply cannot afford the penalties imposed by US secondary sanctions on Iran. The Iranian plan to press Europe to compensate for President Trump’s policy decision to restart a crippling sanctions regime is unlikely to prove fruitful,” he told Arab News.

Recent revelations of a covert Iranian facility designed to develop long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles that can be fitted with nuclear warheads will only complicate matters for Tehran as it scrambles for a European lifeline, Shahbandar said.

“The collapse of the JCPOA is likely to prove a major shock to the Iranian economy in the long run,” he said.