French Newspaper Claims as Many as One Million Illegal Migrants in Libya

Migrants arrive at the El-Kitif port in the Tunisian town of Ben Guerdane, some 40 kilometres west of the Libyan border, following their rescue by Tunisia's coastguard and navy after their vessel overturned off Libya, on August 23, 2015. 125 migrants, including 28 women, were rescued from two boats which …

The Libya correspondent for the French newspaper Le Monde has claimed the country could be playing host to as many as 700,000 to one million asylum seekers, with many waiting to come to Europe.

The claims came from journalist Frédéric Bobin who took questions from readers on the current situation in Libya and the status of the migrant crisis which has engulfed the country.

According to Bobin, “across all categories, it is estimated that between 700,000 and 1 million migrants and refugees are present in Libya. That was at least the situation in 2017.”

The journalist added that most of the migrants flowing into Libya who hope to reach Europe used to come primarily from Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia, but now they have been joined by large numbers of migrants from West Africa.

Bobin also credited the decline in numbers crossing to Europe over the last year to an alleged agreement between the former Italian government and warlords operating near the coastal city of Sabratha.

While not confirming the rumour of the secret agreement, Bobin said: “The sudden cessation of Sabratha’s migratory activity is no less disturbing. It is difficult to prove that there may have been payments of money.”

Some European leaders have begun to push for asylum reception centres in North Africa, but Bobin claims that such centres are unlikely in Libya or nearby Tunisia. “In Libya, the case remains practically difficult and eminently controversial in view of the prevailing context of violence,” he said.

The suggestion of overseas asylum centres has also seen pushback from left-wing politicians within the European Union such as British Labour Party MEP Claude Moraes, who blasted the idea as “extreme” earlier this week.

“Offshoring … is not an asylum system in our view, because you wouldn’t guarantee human rights, you wouldn’t guarantee proper processing and you wouldn’t have any guarantee that someone who had any asylum claim would end up in the European Union,” he said.

Italy’s new Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini discussed a deal to establish processing centres on Libya’s southern border with the country’s UN-backed government just days ago, however.

Both sides believe this would keep illegal migrants away from the people-smugglers’ coastal bases, and prevent Libya from becoming a bottleneck.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at) 


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