Five Libyan soldiers have claimed asylum in the UK to avoid being thrown out of the country after their visit was cut short because their colleagues were accused of multiple sex attacks. The cadets were amongst a group of 300 being trained at the British taxpayer’s expense in Bassingbourn Barracks in Cambridgeshire.
They arrived in June because of a British commitment to train 2,000 soldiers as part of a project to bring greater security to Libya. However, the group of 300 will now be returned to Libya after it emerged three had been arrested for sexual assault of a woman, later others were arrested for gang raping a young man.
Local MP Andrew Lansley said he had been assured that the soldiers would not be allowed off the barracks without supervision. However, this rule was then relaxed without his permission in order to allow the cadets to visit “places of interest”.
The man who was attacked is described as being in his early 20s. It is reported to have taken place on the Christ’s Pieces Park, close to a number of colleges of the University of Cambridge. This has led to speculation that the victim was a student at the university.
After the announcement that the group would return home it emerged five of them had claimed asylum. At Prime Minister’s Question Time today Lansley demanded an investigation and to say that none of them had a legitimate right to stay in the UK.
Shadow defence minister Ian Lucas told the BBC: “The training of Libyan soldiers was central to the UK Government’s long-term security strategy for the region. Having been significantly delayed in the first instance, the UK-based training programme has now collapsed in disarray and scandal, and there are no plans to continue it elsewhere.”
The collapse of the mission has once again raised questions about the side the British took in the Arab Spring. The spring did lead to the overthrow of a number of regimes in the Arab world, but some of the groups that have emerged are accepted to have been worse than what they replaced. One such group is ISIS, which has implemented a brutal regime in parts of Syria and Iraq.
It is not known what reason the soldiers have given for asking for asylum, but under the European Convention on Human Rights the cadets accused of raping the man might be eligible to claim asylum even if convicted. This is because their convictions would prove they are gay and as a result they are likely to be discriminated against in Libya.