A group of Libyan soldiers who were involved in a training programme in Britain beset by allegations of rape, theft and drunkenness are claiming asylum in the UK.
The existence of this “handful” of soldiers came to light after a parliamentary question to defence minister Michael Fallon who said that while almost all of the 328 soldiers who had arrived to start their training had already gone, some were still in the country. While it was known that five were being kept under lock and key after serious assaults on locals, Fallon revealed for the first time that there were “a very small handful” of Libyan soldiers who instead of returning home had somehow managed to claim asylum.
Rumours circulating earlier this month said as many as five had applied for asylum, but this number has not been confirmed or denied by the government.
The contract has cost the British Ministry of Defence £17.2 million, including £4.2 million for interpreters for the soldiers, and £3 million to re-activate the barracks where the training took place. Originally an RAF base, Army Training Base Bassingbourn closed in 2012, before reopening for the Libyans this year.
Prime minister David Cameron has already said no soldiers would be granted asylum, suggesting those who have yet to leave may yet be expelled. At the time of the drunken spree he said their behaviour was “completely unacceptable. These are criminal actions”.
The UK agreed to train a core of 2,000 Libyan cadets after the civil war, as part of a Western aid package to stabilise the country and put it on the transition to democracy. The programme went off the rails in early October when a group of cadets scaled the security fence of the army barracks at Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire and stole bicycles to ride into Cambridge itself.
When they arrived at the university town, the men acted “like a pack” of animals, putting their hands up the skirts of young women, seriously sexually assaulting one, and assaulting a police officer.
This was not an isolated incident, the cadets reportedly broke out of the base on a regular basis to buy alcohol or go to the shops. The Daily Mail also reports two recruits have been charged with raping a man, while others got into hot water after molesting cleaners at the barracks.
Speaking to the BBC, one cadet blamed the British authorities for the attacks, saying “They didn’t tell us about British law and what’s the difference between right and wrong here” and that the British were too uptight, and ought “Not to take things too seriously”. The cadets also complained about uncomfortable living conditions, which were likely similar to the standard of accommodation provided to British army basic training recruits.
The trouble caused by the truculent Libyans became so bad the staff and police available locally were insufficient, and the Army had to cancel the leave of 2SCOTS the Royal Highland Fusiliers so they could be drafted in. Breitbart London reported the comments of one soldier who remarked at the time: “Some of the boys have been told they need to get back into barracks and go down and help out 3 Scots.
“All we have been told is that it has been kicking off down there with the Libyan troops who are training at Bassingbourn. We just have to go down there and sort it out”.
Before the troops were ordered to return to Libya, Cambridge police confirmed it had increased patrols as a measure to provide reassurance to locals. One resident of Bassingbourn village said: “How much more of this can our village take before some serious action is enforced and we say enough is enough? I have never felt so unsafe in a village I have lived in for over 16 years”.