Libya - illegal immigration resumes

2012-01-19 22:38

Tripoli - Libya's interior ministry said on Thursday illegal immigrants have started entering the country again in their thousands, appealing to the European Union to help curb the flow of people.

"The phenomenon has started again and we need the EU to intervene," mainly to help monitor the vast Saharan borders in the south, General Abdelmonem al-Tunsi, a ministry spokesperson, told AFP.

He said "thousands of people from Syria and neighbouring countries enter through the Massad terminal" on the border with Egypt, adding that "hundreds of immigrants also arrive through the southern borders, including from Nigeria".

Tunsi said that on January 10, the authorities intercepted 260 such illegal immigrants who were aided by three Libyans armed with Kalashnikovs and also in possession of 3.5kg of hashish.

He said the flood of illegal immigrants began at the end of the conflict against Muammar Gaddafi because the country's borders are not fully protected.

When the revolt erupted in February, tens of thousands of illegal immigrants fled Libya, and few dared venture into the North African nation while fighting against Gaddafi's forces raged last year.

Libya has been a destination and a transit country to European shores for hundreds of thousands of African immigrants.

Gaddafi's regime used the issue as a means to exert pressure on Europe and asked for €5bn from the European Union last year to stop the flow of illegals.