By Hadi Fornaji
Tunis, 1 August 2017:
The Supreme Council of the Tribes and Town in Fezzan has rejected the plan proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron to create what he called “hot spots” in the south of Libya where migrants could apply for asylum.
The plan was announced by Macron last Thursday during a visit to a refugee centre in Orleans. He said that this way the migrants would not have to risk their lives in crossing the Mediterranean only then to have their asylum applications rejected once they arrived in Europe.
It is reported there could also be application centres in Niger and Chad.
In rejecting the idea, which it called an attack on Libya’s sovereignty, the Fezzan council said that Macron’s plan reminded them of 19th-century colonialism where the colonial powers decided they had the right to go anywhere they wanted to do what they wanted. Any attempt to set up such centres in southern Libya would be vigorously opposed, it warned.
It is not clear if Macron discussed the idea with Presidency Council Faiez Serraj and Libyan National Army head Khalifa Hafterwhen they were in Paris for talks at his invitation at the beginning of last week.
Neither has spoken of it, unlike the not dissimilar case of the possible entry of Italian navy vessels into Libyan waters. Hafter and the LNA have condemned any Italian presence; Serraj has denied ever agreeing to it.
It is unlikely that Hafter would object to an Italian presence but accept that of the French.
The proposal has also caused surprise within Libya where the vast majority of those passing through the country are seen as economic migrants. Their applications for asylum would therefore, presumably, be rejected. Because of this, the logic is they would not bother making any application in the first place but carry on to the coast for the crossing.