French MP visits migrant detention centre in Libya

French MP visits detention centre for illegal migrants near Tripoli, Libya.

TRIPOLI, LIBYA (JULY 4, 2015) (REUTERS) – French parliamentarian Jean Frédéric Poisson toured a detention centre for illegal migrants on the outskirts of the Libyan capital Tripoli Saturday (July 4), in a visit he said was aimed at better understanding and resolving the illegal migration problem.

The visit came about a week after Libya’s internationally recognized government said it would send a delegation to discuss with the European Union proposals to curb migrant smuggling from the North African coast.

“First we are trying to understand how migrants come here, how long they stay, where they go when they leave here,” said Poisson after a tour of the detention centre some 70 km east of Tripoli. He was joined by Libya’s interior minister from the unrecognized government based in the capital.

He said he wanted a better understanding of the kinds of problems Libya “encounter here to keep them (migrants) in normal conditions of living,” as well as how France and the EU can try to solve the problems weighing on the countries involved.

With two rival governments and their armed factions battling for control, the North African state is in chaos and has no real naval force to tackle an increasing flow of illegal migrants smuggled from its coast to Europe.

EU ministers recently approved a naval operation to try to halt the stream of migrants, though it will be limited for the moment to intelligence gathering because it has no authorization from the United Nations.

Securing consent from Libya, where both rival factions are wary of international missions in their waters, has been a major concern for European powers who plan to use submarines, aircraft, ships and drones in their operation.

The air force commander of the recognized government has also warned European countries that any vessels entering Libyan waters without permission would be targeted by air strikes.

The internationally recognized government has operated out of the east since last summer when a force called Libya Dawn took over the capital Tripoli, declared its own government and reinstated the old parliament in a challenge to the elected House of Representatives.

The self-declared National Salvation government has also expressed “deep concern” over EU migrant plans.

The United Nations is trying to broker a ceasefire and power-sharing deal between the two factions as Western governments worry that Libya is becoming a safe haven for militants as well as for smugglers ferrying illegal migrants into Europe.