There has been evidence for many months that the Gaddafi regime was facilitating migrant boat departures from Libya towards Italy and Malta; here are two recent articles on the topic from the Los Angeles Times and the Telegraph.
LA Times: “… During its life as a military base, the impromptu camp [at Janzour / Zanzour] was heavily guarded, but in recent in months, several people from the area said, Kadafi’s government facilitated the entry of Africans hoping to migrate by boat to Europe. … The military base was run by a Kadafi operative named Zuhair, according to several people familiar with its operation. As rebels approached Tripoli, they said, Zuhair was seen taking off in a speedboat, accompanied by his top aide and two bodyguards. … [The base] is also the scene of one of Muammar Gaddafi’s most bizarre and cynical plans; an operation to flood Europe with black African illegal immigrants in revenge for Nato’s bombing campaign. For months until the uprising in Tripoli two weeks ago, men in uniform were seen around the port directing the loading of immigrants onto leaky boats bound for Italy. Africans who landed this summer on the tiny island of Lampedusa – a speck of rock south of Sicily – said they had paid nothing for their passage, in contrast to the $1,000 fee usually demanded by people smugglers. No boats have left since the rebels drove Gaddafi’s men out, but the human cargo is still stranded there; a thousand desperate black African men, women and children, clustered in the dirt under beached boats in utter squalor, hungry, scared, penniless, and desperate to escape….”
The Telegraph: “…[a] man, who would not give his name, claimed that the port [of Zanzour] had been controlled by a shadowy official called Zuhair, who had vanished when the rebels arrived. ‘He is a Palestinian originally, with several passports,’ the man said. ‘He had people under him and they sent the boats to Lampedusa.’ There seems little likelihood that the operation was being conducted without official sanction; Zanzour is located not on some remote, unpoliced stretch of coast but within an old military base, only about ten miles west of Tripoli, an area which was firmly under Gaddafi’s control until recently. … Laura Boldrini, of UNHCR, warned that illegal immigration could get much worse in the months ahead, adding that nobody knew how the new government would deal with the problem. ‘What happens depends on security,’ she said. ‘If violence explodes in Libya, there is a danger of a massive new influx of people trying to escape.’”
Click on these links for some previous posts on the subject: