Libyan asylum centres will “open the floodgates” and let thousands of migrants pour across the Mediterranean into Europe if the West does not offer them support, officials have said.
While Europe prepares for a sharp rise in the number of migrant crossings as spring approaches, detention centres in the war-torn North African state warn they are severely underfunded and on the verge of collapse.
Libya is in the midst of a civil war, with at least two groups claiming to be the legitimate government and large swathes of territory under Islamist control. This means immigration detention centres are increasingly reliant on foreign aid in order to stay open, with conditions described as “squalid” and “brutal”.
Colonel Mohamed Bourgiba, head of the Gweea detention centre, which holds hundreds of migrants, told The Times: “The state is very weak and there is no money. Most of us here aren’t even getting paid.” He warned that if things do not improve “we will just stop working and open the floodgates. Because at the moment we are doing all of this for nothing.”
Abdel Rahim Rajahi, a colleague of the Colonel, added: “We are operating 50 per cent underfunded but have we seen a single Euro from Europe? No.”
Around 20,000 migrants are being held in Libya’s detention centres, and it is feared that they could all head across the Mediterranean to Italy if the centres collapse under the strain.
The Times reports that more than 35 people are packed into each cell at the Gweea camp, with scabies and hepatitis rampant. One detainee tried to escape but local youths stabbed him after he scaled the fence. He was brought back in to the camp and beaten by guards.
A Nigerian “pusher”, who connects migrants to Libyan smugglers for a 10 per cent commission, said: “The Libyans are ready to give up. So is Europe ready to take these people? While there is poverty and war in Africa, there are going to be people who want to get on those boats.”
According to a recent analysis, Italy faces up to 400,000 new arrivals this year, with the situation made even worse by the effective collapse of the Schengen free movement agreement, trapping the migrants in what was merely a transit country.
Breitbart reported in January that the Italian interior ministry is preparing for the worst. “We need to strengthen the Frontex defence of the external borders and the establishment of a European border police force,” said deputy minister of the Interior, Philip Bubbico.
He also admitted there is little authorities can do to expel migrants: “What else can we do? Throw them into the sea?”