Libyan Coast Guard intercepts Europe-bound migrant boat

A woman reacts after her child died, after a boat accident off the Libyan coast, in Qarabulli town, east of the capital Tripoli. (Reuters)
Updated 03 June 2019

Libyan Coast Guard intercepts Europe-bound migrant boat

  • Libyan authorities have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of migrants, with European assistance

BENGHAZI, THE HAGUE: Libya’s Coast Guard on Monday said it has intercepted a rubber boat carrying dozens of Europe-bound migrants, including women and children, off the country’s Mediterranean coast.

Ayoub Gassim, a Libyan official, said that 85 migrants — among them five women and five children — were given humanitarian and medical aid, then taken to a refugee camp.

He said the boat was caught off the coast of the town of Khoms, 120 km (75 miles) east of the capital, Tripoli. After being picked up, the migrants were returned to Khoms.

Libya became a major conduit for African migrants and refugees fleeing to Europe after the 2011 uprising that ousted and later killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi.

Libyan authorities have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of migrants, with European assistance.

‘Prosecute top EU officials’

Top EU and member states’ officials should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity over the drowning of thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, international lawyers said on Monday.

The Paris-based lawyers  presented the International Criminal Court with a detailed 245-page file, which they said was handed to chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s office.

The information provides “enough evidence implicating the EU and member states’ officials and agents with crimes against humanity committed in pursuant to EU migration policies in the Mediterranean and Libya” since 2014, they said.

The lawyers alleged that in order to keep Europe’s borders safe, the EU resorted to a “deterrence-based migration policy, intended to sacrifice the lives of migrants in distress at sea.” The sole objective was to “dissuade others in similar situation from seeking safe haven in Europe,” they said in their filing, of which a copy was handed to AFP.

When the policy failed because of rescue work by NGOs, the EU adopted a second strategy by employing the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept and send migrants back to camps in Libya.


Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

Updated 14 October 2019

Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

  • Several European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey

ANKARA: With an increasing number of European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey over its ongoing operation in northeastern Syria, Ankara’s existing inventory of weapons and military capabilities are under the spotlight.

More punitive measures on a wider scale are expected during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Oct. 17.

It could further strain already deteriorating relations between Ankara and the bloc.

However, a EU-wide arms embargo would require an unanimous decision by all the leaders.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned last week of a possible refugee flow if Turkey “opened the doors” for 3.6 million Syrian refugees to go to Europe — putting into question the clauses of the 2016 migration deal between Ankara and Brussels.

“The impact of EU member states’ arms sanctions on Turkey depends on the level of Turkey’s stockpiles,” Caglar Kurc, a researcher on defense and armed forces, told Arab News.

Kurc thinks Turkey has foreseen the possible arms sanctions and stockpiled enough spare parts to maintain the military during the operation.

“As long as Turkey can maintain its military, sanctions would not have any effect on the operation. Therefore, Turkey will not change its decisions,” he said.

So far, Germany, France, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway have announced they have stopped weapons shipments to fellow NATO member Turkey, condemning the offensive.

“Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, the federal government will not issue new permits for all armaments that could be used by Turkey in Syria,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Following Germany’s move, the French government announced: “France has decided to suspend all export projects of armaments to Turkey that could be deployed as part of the offensive in Syria. This decision takes effect immediately.”

While not referring to any arms embargo, the UK urged Turkey to end the operation and enter into dialogue.

Turkey received one-third of Germany’s arms exports of €771 million ($850.8 million) in 2018. 

According to Kurc, if sanctions extend beyond weapons that could be used in Syria, there could be a negative impact on the overall defense industry.

“However, in such a case, Turkey would shift to alternative suppliers: Russia and China would be more likely candidates,” he said.

According to Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, the arms embargo would not have a long-term impact essentially because most of the sanctions are caveated and limited to materials that can be used by Turkey in its cross-border operation.

“So the arms embargo does not cover all aspects of the arms trade between Turkey and the EU. These measures look essentially like they are intended to demonstrate to their own critical publics that their governments are doing something about what they see as a negative aspect of Turkey’s behavior,” he told Arab News.

Turkey, however, insists that the Syria operation, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” is undeterred by any bans or embargoes.

“No matter what anyone does, no matter if it’s an arms embargo or anything else, it just strengthens us,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told German radio station Deutsche Welle.