Europe will be increasingly at risk from terrorists posing as migrants unless western capitals help Libya to stem the numbers crossing the Mediterranean, the country’s prime minister has told The Times.
Fayez al-Serraj, head of the United Nations-backed unity government based in Tripoli, warned that would-be terrorists were among the tens of thousands of people able to pass unvetted into his country across its open southern borders.
“When migrants reach Europe, they will move freely. If, God forbid, there are terrorist elements among the migrants, a result of any incident will affect all of the EU,” he said.
His comments, which follow last week’s terrorist attacks in Spain that police have linked to radical groups in north Africa, come as Libya and Italy send an SOS to the rest of Europe over the migrant crisis.
A warning that Italy’s “social and democratic fabric” is under threat amid growing public intolerance towards migrants and a rise in support for anti-migrant parties.
A Libyan five-point plan for the EU to help to solve the crisis, including help to police its southern border, which is supported by Italy.
Mr al-Serraj said that the stakes were just as high in Libya: “The EU must do more to us help face smuggling. We can’t put the burden on Libya and Italy alone as it is important for all of Europe.”
His five-point plan includes EU assistance to secure Libya’s southern border and lift the UN arms embargo, allowing Tripoli to arm its coastguard more effectively. It also involves applying diplomatic pressure on African states to take back economic migrants.
Mr al-Serraj also accused European charities operating rescue boats in the Mediterranean of attracting migrants from across Africa to Libya.
This month Medecins Sans Frontieres, Save the Children and Sea Eye, of Germany,stopped work in the Mediterranean, saying that they could not operate safely when Libya’s coastguard had issued an “explicit threat” against them. Mr al-Serraj said that their ships, not Italy’s shores, had become the migrants’ “first target”.