Libyan militia chief admits deal with Tripoli to stem migrant flow

The Times
A powerful Libyan militia commander and suspected trafficking kingpin has struck a deal with Tripoli to stem the flow of migrants to Europe in exchange for cars, boats and the recognition of his force as a legitimate security body.

Ahmed Dabbashi, who commands the Anas Dabbashi brigade, said that he met officials from Libya’s UN-backed government in July to discuss how to shut down people trafficking along the coast. In the meeting the officials agreed to clear the accusations of criminality hanging over his brigade.

The deal coincides with a sharp fall in the number of migrants crossing from Libya to Italy in the past few weeks, down by 86 per cent last month. However, the militia warned that migrant numbers would climb again if the brigade stopped receiving financial help.
Mr Dabbashi, known by his nickname al-Ammu (The Uncle), has long been accused of running a trafficking network from the smuggling hub of Sabratha. Security officials in Sabratha and Tripoli said this week that his militia was paid millions of euros by Italy in a deal with the Libyan government to stop his trade.

It would not be the first time that Europe has paid unsavoury figures in Libya to halt the flow of migrants to its shores. The EU pledged €50 million to Libya in 2010 under Colonel Gaddafi to fight illegal migration.

Mr Dabbashi denied the smuggling charges and the Italian deal. He said that his brigade, which has 500 men and is part of the unity government’s defence ministry, was just policing the coastal city.

Read full article: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/libyan-militia-chief-admits-deal-with-tripoli-to-stem-migrant-flow-ahmed-dabbashi-brigade-migrant-crisis-italy-538lwtgf5

Photo: AP

Food runs short amid squalor of Libya’s detention centres

The TimesIn Libya’s migrant detention centres, they call it knife sleeping. Locked in windowless warehouses, the migrants have so little space they sleep in shifts. The men lie pressed back to back like cutlery stacked in a drawer.

At the Triq al-Siqqa centre in Tripoli, the putrid smell of 1,300 people living in close quarters in the searing summer heat hits like a punch to the stomach. The air is so thick it is nearly impossible to breathe. In the main cell, 700 men crouch on the floor like animals in a pen. Two barred gates separate them from the outside.

Some of the detainees, who come from Africa, southeast Asia and the Middle East, have been living like this for eight months waiting to be repatriated. With almost no exceptions, Libya does not process asylum claims.

Bel Trew of The Times interviewing migrants detained at the centre
Bel Trew of The Times interviewing migrants detained at the centreTAHA JAWASHI FOR THE TIMES

“It’s extremely hard, there are not enough toilets, there are many fights for water and food,” said Shahadat, 38, from Bangladesh, weak in the heat.

He was arrested in May and is waiting to be repatriated, after losing $7,000 to smugglers and kidnappers. “The authorities are trying their best but you can barely sleep. It’s a nightmare,” he said. Inmates have set up an impromptu barber and washing station close by but disease spreads fast.

Behind Shahadat, dozens of Bangladeshi migrants were lined up cross-legged on the dirt floor, awaiting their turn to eat. Fights broke out when a different group from Mali claimed that they had jumped the queue. Supplies for lunch — a stale sandwich, juice carton and glass of water — were running out.

Anes al-Azabi, one of the centre’s heads, said that there were only four days of food left. After that, if the centre could not secure government funding or a new deal with a charity, the guards would have to bring in their own supplies.

 Read full article: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/food-runs-short-amid-squalor-of-libya-s-packed-detention-centres-tpp98gkgl
PHOTO: TAHA JAWASHY