Libyan officials yesterday claimed that Libya intercepted a migrant boat shortly after it left Libya attempting to sail to Italy. The boat was carrying over 400 migrants from sub-Saharan countries including Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria. Journalists who interviewed some of the arrested migrants reported the incident appeared to have been staged. Some migrants who “spoke briefly to Reuters said they had paid more than $1,000 each for the trip, and many believed the boat’s captain had had no intention of ever making for the European coast, but had handed them straight to the Libyan authorities. ‘We were deceived by these people, Libyans,’ said Isaac Okyere, a 27 year-old Ghanaian. ‘They marched us to the Navy people,’ he said, adding that the boat was intercepted about 45 minutes after setting sail.” Libyan officials denied the arrests were staged, but did admit that the boat’s captain (who apparently was not arrested) alerted officials in advance of the boat’s departure. It was not reported where the arrested migrants have been taken or what will now happen to them.
Interior Minister Fawzi Abd al All told a news conference that the interception and arrests showed the new government was serious about stopping illegal migration to Europe: “Despite a lack of means, we were able to prevent illegal immigration of people who were heading for Italy. … Illegal immigration was a means of pressure used by the former regime to blackmail Europe. Now this issue will be treated differently. …We expect support from the world” in preventing such trafficking.
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