The seas off western Libya have been quiet since late July. Before that, they swarmed with smugglers’ boats overfilled with migrants, mostly sub-Saharan Africans heading for Europe. From 23,000 migrants per month, the flow of arrivals has slowed to a trickle.A clever scheme, I guess. But this has to be terrible for Libya's future. Half the reason migrants pass through Libya rather than Algeria is that Algeria has a government up to the job of stopping them. This may slow the flow of migrants in the short term, but at the price of putting off that day when Libya has a stable state for a long, long time.
The migrants are accumulating on Libya’s coast and many are incarcerated in opaque circumstances. Their movement has been stymied by militias, who have turned on the northbound flow of migrants they once profited from. Deep in the southern desert, emergent militia groups evince the goal of closing the border with Niger and Chad to migrants moving north — attempting to patrol areas that none of Libya’s three rival governments ever secured.
Motivating the Libyan militias’ newfound zeal for blocking migrant movement is a new policy spearheaded by the Italian government and embraced by the European Union. The approach relies on payment to militias willing to act as migrant deterrent forces. Italian government representatives use intermediaries such as mayors and other local leaders to negotiate terms of the agreements with the armed groups. They also build local support in the targeted areas by distributing humanitarian aid. . . .
The pay-them-to-stop scheme has introduced a novel way for amoral, uncontrolled armed groups to carry on extracting rents from the still-raging migrant crisis. Previously, migrants and smugglers paid militias a tax to depart for Europe. Now, the E.U. — coordinated by Italy — in effect pays a tax to the same groups to keep the migrants in place.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Paying Libya's Militias to Cut Off Migrant Flows
Over the past few years, hundreds of thousands of migrants have passed through Libya on their way to Italy and the rest of Europe. Many were helped along the way by the armed militias that dominate big swathes of Libyan territory. The groups have been happy to help human smugglers in return for cash. But now the Italians have found a way to change the equation: