By Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli, 2 March 2012:
Libya plans to hold a ministerial summit with regional and neighboring states to discuss border security, according to the Foreign Ministry. . . .[restrict]The meeting is to take place in Tripoli on 11 and 12 March.
Officials from the interior and defence ministries of Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco and Sudan as well as security experts from each of these countries are expected to attend a preparatory meeting on 9 and 10 March.
A foreign ministry official stated in Thursday that since the fall of the Qaddafi regime, Libya’s borders had become even more porous than ever, with smuggling of both arms and people difficult to control.
There have been regular reports of Libyans weapons being taken to Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and elsewhere. It is claimed they are being used in the latest Tuareg rebellion in Mali.
Last month, Algerian official announced that security forces had discovered a large cache of weapons, including shoulder-fired missiles, which they said were smuggled from Libya. Also last month there were warnings from the Tunisia’s Minister of the Interior Ali Larayedh of Tunisian Salafists acquiring Libyan weapons. He said the proliferation of weapons from Libya posed a “great threat” to all North Africa.
Late last year, Egyptians authorities seized Libyan arms being smuggled across the border and claimed that Libyan weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, had turned up as far away as the Sinai peninsula.
While attending the African Union summit in Addis Ababa in January, Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Kib had called for a regional security conference to tackle the proliferation of weapons by exiled supporters of the former regime.
“(There is) still a real threat from some of the armed remnants of the former regime who escaped outside the country and still roam freely,” Keib told African Union leaders. This is a threat for us, for neighboring countries and our shared relations.”
He made his call after a UN report said that last year’s Libya revolution may have enabled militant groups in Africa’s Sahel region like Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda to acquire large weapons caches.
Next week’s meeting will discuss more than arms. According to Al-Kib, it will be an opportunity for “consultations on border control, in order to meet the security challenges of present and future, including illegal immigration”.
With its the long desert border, which are not subject to full control, Libya has, for a number of years, been the preferred route for hundreds of thousands of African migrants aiming to get to Europe. During the Qaddafi years this was at times actively encouraged in order to pressurize Europe into making political and financial concessions.
Migrants to Europe from sub-Saharan Africa are still crossing the desert into Libya in the hope of making it across the Mediterranean to Europe. Libya Herald has met with a number of migrants, men and women, who recently travelled by truck from Nigeria to Tripoli.
Meanwhile, a representatives of a Libyan Tebu tribe in Tripoli for Thursday’s First Libyan Tebu Conference said his tribe was doing all in it power to control the desert border. He described it as the centre for the smuggling of all kinds of goods as well as people. He also said that Senussi Tabu and other tribes stationed in the town of Kufra operated informal patrols to monitor the border because the official unit in charge of the task had fled following the fall of Muammar Qaddafi.