Libyan coast guard intercepts more than 570 Europe-bound migrants

A woman holds a toddler as migrants arrive at a naval base in Tripoli, after being rescued off the coast of Zawia on July 30, 2018. (AFP / Mahmud Turkia)
Updated 02 August 2018
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Libyan coast guard intercepts more than 570 Europe-bound migrants

  • The migrants hailed from both African and Middle Eastern countries — official
  • All of the migrants were given humanitarian and medical aid and were handed over to anti-migration authorities

CAIRO: Libya’s coast guard intercepted three groups totaling more than 570 Europe-bound migrants, including at least 66 women and 19 children, in the Mediterranean Sea, a spokesman said Wednesday.
One group of 292 migrants, including 42 women and 10 children, embarked on the perilous trip for Europe on three rubber boats but the coast guard stopped them off the coast of the western town of Zawiya, coast guard spokesman Ayoub Gassim said in a statement.
Another group of 101 migrants on a rubber boat were also rescued off the capital, Tripoli, the coast guard said in a separate statement.
The coast guard said it had also rescued 181 others, including 24 women and nine children, in a separate incident off Tripoli. The migrants were on two rubber boats, Gassim said.
The migrants hailed from both African and Middle Eastern countries, he said.
The three groups were intercepted Monday. All of them were given humanitarian and medical aid and were handed over to anti-migration authorities in the town of Tajoura and Tripoli, Gassim said.
The interceptions came a day after the UN refugee agency said it is looking into possible violations of international law involving the transport to Libya of 108 migrants rescued at sea by an Italian-flagged mercantile ship.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Italy said on Twitter that Libya is not a secure port, making such a transfer a violation of international law.
An Italian lawmaker aboard a rescue ship operated by a non-governmental organization, Nicola Frantoianni, said on Facebook that they had proof that the ship, Asso Ventotto, was taking the migrants to Libya, calling it “a very serious precedent” if ordered by the Italian coast guard.
Responding to the suspicions, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Facebook Tuesday that the Italian coast guard was not involved in the rescue, which was coordinated by the Libyan coast guard.
Libya has emerged as a major transit point to Europe for those fleeing poverty and civil war elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East. Traffickers have exploited Libya’s chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Libyan authorities have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of migrants, with assistance from European countries, who are eager to slow a phenomenon that far-right wing parties have seized upon to gain electoral support.


Tunisian parliament approves prime minister’s cabinet reshuffle

A general view shows a plenary session at the Tunisian parliament in the capital Tunis on November 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 23 min 40 sec ago
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Tunisian parliament approves prime minister’s cabinet reshuffle

  • The prime minister has been caught up in a dispute with the leader of the party, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, who is also the president’s son, and has accused Chahed of failing to tackle high inflation, unemployment and other problems

TUNIS: The Tunisian parliament approved on Monday a cabinet reshuffle proposed by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed amid a political and economic crisis.
The approval is widely seen in Tunisia as a victory for Chahed over his political opponents, including his party Nidaa Tounes, who demanded that he step down because of his government’s failure to revive the economy.
Youssef Chahed named 10 new ministers last week in a cabinet reshuffle he hopes will inject fresh blood into his government.
Chahed named Jewish businessman Rene Trabelsi as minister of tourism in the Muslim Arab country, only the third member of the small minority of 2,000 Jews to enter a cabinet since Tunisia’s independence in 1956.
A former foreign minister under the former president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, Kamel Morjan, became minister in charge of the public service, Tunisia’s main employer.
Portfolios such as finance, foreign affairs and the interior ministries were unchanged.
Lawmakers voted to approve the reshuffle, giving Chahed support to push on with economic reforms asked by lenders.
“Since two years we were working under random shelling from friendly fire,” Chahed said in speech in the parliament.
“We have not found political support in the reforms and in the fight against corruption, this is no longer possible as we want clarity to move forward in reviving the economy and ending the political crisis,” he said.
The prime minister has been caught up in a dispute with the leader of the party, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, who is also the president’s son, and has accused Chahed of failing to tackle high inflation, unemployment and other problems.
The party’s demands have been supported by the influential UGTT union, which has also opposed Chahed’s plans to overhaul loss-making public companies.
The political wrangling has alarmed donors which have kept Tunisia afloat with loans granted in exchange for a promise of reforms such as cutting a bloated public service.
“This reshuffle is a coup against the winning party in the 2014 elections ... Chahed did not consult with Nidaa Tounes about this reshuffle,” Sofian Toubel, an official in Nidaa Tounes said.
Tunisia has been hailed for its democratic transition since 2011 but the North African country has been hit by economic crisis and militant attacks since then.