Libyan PM: Siege of Tripoli Could Drive 800,000 More Migrants into Europe

Tuesday, April 16, 2019
By Paul Martin

16 Apr 2019

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), warned on Tuesday that 800,000 more migrants could be driven into Europe unless the assault on Tripoli by warlord Khalifa Haftar ends soon.

Sarraj issued this warning – which could be taken as a threat to prod Europe into taking action against Haftar – during an interview with Sky News. It was the first interview Sarraj has given since Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA) began their push toward Tripoli.

“The international community must pressurize these forces and call it by its name and pressurize them to go back to where they came from,” said Sarraj.

“What’s going to happen with this security breakdown is that 800,000 illegal migrants on Libyan ground will have to leave Libya and will cross the sea towards Europe. Amongst these 800,000 there are terrorists and criminals. This will be disastrous,” he said.

Asked what he wanted the Europeans to do, Sarraj made it clear that talking would not be enough to dissuade Haftar, but refused to explicitly call for immediate military intervention. His strategy is to repeatedly stress the perils of the situation, emphasizing the humanitarian nightmare that will unfold if fighting continues, and wait for the Europeans and/or Americans to volunteer themselves for duty against Haftar’s army.

“We speak about a political intervention. But when we see civilians targeted in their houses, hospitals, and schools – our electricity being cut because of destruction to our infrastructure – I think all means are possible for us to get the help of one of the parties to stop this assault,” Sarraj said in a characteristic exchange.

The Libyan prime minister also said the West should take responsibility for the chaos that erupted in Libya after former President Barack Obama’s military intervention in 2011, an action certain European leaders pressured Obama to take.

“The world has abandoned Libya and left it to suffer on its own and a lot of things have become complicated. And I fear that’s what’s happening will happen again and the world will abandon Libya again and it will go into another dark tunnel,” said Sarraj.

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