By Mustafa Khalifa.
Ghat, 20 December 2015:
The Algerian-Libyan border crossing near the desert oasis town of Ghat, in Libya’s deep south is officially . . .[restrict]closed, at least from the Algerian side. Along with the crossing near Ghadames, the Algerians shut it in April for security reasons. It was then officially reopened in summer but again closed last month after a deadly bomb attack on a hotel in the Malian capital, Bamako. In reality, as the Libya Herald found out, it is open but there are no controls on the Libyan side on who enters or leaves.
The border post on the Libya side is located at Essien, some 17 kilometres from Ghat. With a sand track road and not much more than a half a dozen or so portacabin-type buildings plus a overhead metal roof to provide some shade in the sun’s scorching heat, it feels and looks that it is in the middle of nowhere.
On the day this newspaper visited, there were five men stationed there, belonging to 401 battalion of the Libyan National Army. They do not have much to do most of the time. With the Algerians letting few people in, apart from Algerian citizens, there was not much traffic. But while they may not have had much in the way of work they were not short of complaints. They said that they had not been paid from more than a year, that they only had one vehicle between them, that they did not have any up-to-date communications equipment and that there was no military or logistical support. They said they felt they had been forgotten.
While talking to them, two vehicles drove in from the Algerian side. There was no attempt to inspect them or stamp passports of other document.
What about illegal immigrants or terrorists, the Libya Herald asked.
“Anyone who wants to enter Libya or leave can do so,” said one of the guards. “We can’t stop them.” There was, however, liaison with the Algerians on the other side, he said but did not explain the extent of it.
He gave the clear impression, though, that there was no concern about who entered Libya, be they members of the so-called Islamic State or migrants heading for the coast and a boat to Europe. [/restrict]