UN Chief: 235,000 More Migrants in Libya Ready to Embark for Italy

Italy migrant border controls
File Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

The head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, Martin Kobler, has warned that there are 235,000 migrants in Libya “just waiting for the opportunity to go to Italy, which they will.”

In an interview Thursday with the Italian daily La Stampa, Kobler said that new waves of migrants will soon be hitting Italy’s shores, adding to the nearly 300,000 migrants that have arrived into Europe by sea since the first of the year.

The UN chief also tied migration to terrorism, noting that both phenomena are symptoms of the same disease, which is “the lack of state authority.” Without restoring the rule of law to Libya, he said, human trafficking and terrorism will continue.

“On our lists there are 235,000 migrants just waiting for the opportunity to go to Italy, and they will,” Kobler said. “Increased security is the most important issue at this time. If there is a strong and united army, not fragmented, the dangers of terrorism and human trafficking will end,” he said.

Kobler added that the root problem, which is “the poverty of the countries of origin,” must be seriously addressed if Europe wishes to slow the migration flows.

“The battle must be conducted first and foremost in their home countries,” Kobler said, to effectively put an end to the rivers of migrants passing through Libya.

In a report to the UN Security Council Tuesday, Kobler noted that forces loyal to the Presidency Council have made “impressive progress to oust ISIS from its last remaining stronghold in Libya, in Sirte,” meaning that very soon “ISIS will no longer hold territory in Libya.”

“However, the terrorist threat in Libya and beyond will remain and it will require continued vigilance,” he said.

Last month, Italian authorities expressed their growing concern that Islamic State jihadists could infiltrate migrant boats crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa into Italy in order to carry out lone wolf terror attacks on Italian territory.

As a result, officials have been stepping up counterterrorism operations, and in the course of a week ordered the consecutive deportations of two suspected jihadist sympathizers from Italy.

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