Italy calls for end to arms embargo on Libya


Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini says it is to end of the international arms embargo on Libya, saying weapons and migrant traffickers disregard it anyway.

Salvini made the remarks during a news conference in Rome with a deputy prime minister of the U.N. -backed Libyan government in Tripoli, Ahmed Maiteeg.

Salvini added that he’ll lobby fellow EU countries to adopt his position that Libya needs aid when he meets fellow interior ministers next week in Austria.

Salvini, who leads Italy’s anti-migrant League party, also said he wants to make migrant detention centers in Libya “more pleasant.”

Migrants and rights advocates have described inhumane conditions including overcrowding, scarce rations and beatings. U.N. refugee agency officials have said they can’t gain access to unofficial detention centers run by Libya’s powerful, rival militias.

FILE PHOTO: Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini looks on during a news conference in Rome, Italy, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo

Salvini said Italian security forces will be sent “in the shortest time possible” to help staff a military outpost in Ghat, a city in Libya’s southwest near Algeria. The Italian presence is aimed at bolstering efforts by Libyan police who are trying to thwart traffickers smuggling in migrants across the southern border in the desert.

Italy’s new populist government is determined to stop trafficked migrants from reaching Italy by sea, both by aiding the Libyan coast guard and beefing up security at Libya’s southern border with Niger, a major route for the human traffickers, who have launched hundreds of thousands of migrants in boats in the central Mediterranean in the last few years.

Earlier this week, Italy announced it was giving 12 vessels to Libya’s coast guard, which humanitarian groups say is ill-equipped to properly rescue migrants from traffickers’ unseaworthy boats. Salvini said after meeting with the Libyan official that 17 more vessels will come, and said he’ll ask his counterparts at the EU meeting to do more to assist Libya fight trafficking.

Maiteeg said “whatever nations wants to help Libya” in this project are welcome.