Stuck in Libya. Migrants and (Our) Political Responsibilities

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Series Details February 2017
Publication Date 02/02/2017
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Fighting at Tripoli’s international airport was still under way when, in July 2014, the diplomatic missions of European countries, the United States and Canada were shut down. At that time Italy decided to maintain a pied-à-terre in place in order to preserve the precarious balance of its assets in the two-headed country, strengthening security at its local headquarters on Tripoli’s seafront. But the escalation of the civil war and the consequent deterioration of security conditions led Rome to leave as well, in February 2015.

The decision to reopen the Italian Embassy in Tripoli was announced by the Italian Minister of the Interior Marco Minniti during his official trip to Tripoli on January 9th.

Today Libya is nearing collapse: the plunge of oil exports – owing to the fighting between local militias – has compounded the breakdown of the banking system due to corruption, thus giving rise to a serious liquidity crisis which in turn has led to galloping inflation on the currency black market. Public administration salaries are paid intermittently because of the lack of liquidity and the tertiary sector is strangled by the depreciation of the Libyan dinar. The main source of income in Libya today is illegal trafficking.

While Europe trains Libyan coastguardsmen, Italy provides them with the equipment they need. This decision derogates from the UN Security Council resolution that has been in force since 2011 imposing an arms embargo in Libya in the absence of a unity government. Technically, Sarraj’s Presidential Council represents a national unity body, but it lacks executive power because it has not received the Tobruq Parliament’s vote of confidence. But Italy carries on, worried about losing its assets, should its former “overseas backyard” definitely implode.

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ISPI: Commentary: Stuck in Libya. Migrants and (Our) Political Responsibilities [PDF]

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