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US Libya: Coastguard official accused of smuggling migrants arrested

11:25  17 october  2020
11:25  17 october  2020 Source:   rfi.fr

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Des garde-côtes libyens patrouillent en mer entre les villes de Sabratha et Zawiya, le 28 juillet 2017 (image d'illustration). © TAHA JAWASHI / AFP Libyan coast guards patrol the sea between the towns of Sabratha and Zawiya, July 28, 2017 (illustrative image).

The Libyan government in Tripoli announced on Friday (October 16th) the arrest of a coast guard official suspected of being a trafficker, including migrants to Europe.

Captain Abdelrahman Milad - known as "Al-Bidja" - was a senior coast guard official in Zawiya, some 50 kilometers west of Tripoli. His name is on a list of people subject to sanctions by the UN Security Council and he is wanted by Interpol .

For human rights activist and Eritrean journalist Meron Estefanos, who has extensively investigated human trafficking in Libya, Al-Bidja is a known figure. “If you look at the number of migrants who have passed through Libya - especially after the fall of Gaddafi - the numbers are huge and the vast majority passed through Zawiya where Al-Bidja was captain. Almost all of the refugees I have spoken to - and I interviewed hundreds, if not thousands - almost all of them indicated that a coast guard was involved in the smuggling of migrants, she said. But it took years for it to come out. But he is a known trafficker, who smuggled many things, gasoline, migrants. And what is sad is that at the same time he was participating in discussions with Europeans on how to stop illegal immigration. I have been saying for years that there are Libyan coast guards responsible for smuggling migrants. When Italy decided to make an agreement with its coast guards, I was among the first to denounce this agreement, to say that those who traffic are the same who are paid by Europe to stop these networks of traffickers. . "

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" I am waiting to see where he will be brought to justice "

Meron Estefanos welcomes the arrest of Al-Bidja. According to her, Bidja is responsible for the deaths of many people. “The way this trafficking operates is this: when someone wants to get on a boat for Europe, they come into contact with a fixer, a trafficker who promises to put it on a boat. But after that, the coast guard takes over. Often it is people like Bidja - who are in high places, who have connections - who will put migrants on board such and such a boat, she explains. And if you put 500 people on a boat that can only hold 100 and there is an accident, well you are responsible for the deaths of these people. Until now, those who have been pinned down by the government have been second knives, so this time I am happy with the arrest of Abdelrahman Milad "Al-Bidja". But I wonder what will happen to him: will he be transferred to the ICC or will he be tried in Libya, where there is a lot of corruption and where he can pay and be released. . So I’m a little worried and I’m waiting to see where he is brought to justice. "

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Libya has been sinking into chaos for years. Military representatives in Geneva have now taken a decisive step towards peace. © Photo: Violaine Martin / dpa Stephanie Williams, UN Commissioner for Libya, during talks between UNSMIL (United Nations Support Mission in Libya) and the conflicting parties on October 19, 2020. The rival camps in the civil war in Libya have agreed on a truce.

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This is interesting!