Armed force ‘led by former MAFIA boss’ causing dramatic reduction in migrants to Italy

Tuesday, August 22, 2017
By Paul Martin

A “FORMER Mafia boss” is conducting a “very strong” campaign to stop migrant boats from leaving Libya, causing a sudden drop in numbers over the past month, sources in the area revealed.

Tue, Aug 22, 2017

An armed group has based themselves in the seaside town of Sabratha, which is 45miles west of the capital Tripoli, and have been touted as a reason for a 50 per cent drop in arrivals in Italy compared to a year earlier.

Sources speaking to Reuters claim the new force is preventing migrants from leaving and is often locking them up.

The group is reportedly running a detention centre for migrants while seeking legitimacy and financial support from Tripoli.

European states have tried to partner with a UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) to stem migrant flows in the area.

Italy has been trying to bolster the GNA’s ability to stop people smuggling with cash, training and by sending a ship to help repair Tripoli’s coastguard and navy vessels.

A civil society organiser from the city said: “The group in Sabratha works on the ground, the beach, to prevent the migrants leaving on boats towards Italy.”

A second source said the group is made up of several hundred “civilians, policemen, army figures”.

Some 600,000 migrants have reached Italy by sea from North Africa since 2014 with more than 12,000 having died attempting the trip.

Flavio Di Giacomo, an International Organisation for Migration spokesman in Rome claimed some migrants were also turned back before reaching Sabratha.

He added: “They said that it was very difficult to depart from Sabratha. There are people stopping the boats before they set out, and if they get out to sea they’re immediately sent back.”

Since 2015, Sabratha has been the most frequently used departure point.

Italy wants to replicate the sort of deal with Libya that the EU struck with Turkey to shut down the migrant route through Greece and the Balkans.

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