Mayor of Tripoli, Libya
Dear Colleagues, dear Participants,
On behalf of Tripoli municipality and myself as its Mayor, I would like to express all my gratitude and satisfaction to be among you all today to attend this event that will shed some light on some important aspects of people’s life, people whose main aspiration is always living a better tomorrow!
We are facing an era where events tend to hide the most important element of all: the human being and his dignity. Crises pile up and nearly become an unpleasant routine where the death toll determines the urgency of the debate and eventually the action.
Migration is one of the structural aspect of humanity that we keep mismanaging as an everlasting crisis: unpopular for our politicians, easy tools in the hands of blackmailing dictators, disturbing for the communities who don't see in it any planned framework but only a threat.
The French demographer Alfred Sony says: “Either wealth moves to where the people are or people move to where there is wealth”. Nowadays we are facing population flows fleeing from unhappiness and misery, hostages of constantly degrading conditions, chasing survival. Groups of people with broken wings find themselves in front of an incentive... that calls them to life and death at the same time, and they go ahead fearing no borders, no deserts, no sea.
In tackling this critical topic it is important to briefly retrace the different stages of the crisis. Until 1985 the European countries were in desperate need of foreign workforce. This brought to the set up of a protection system for both migrant workers and their families, known as a “family reunification” system.
From 1985 to 1995 migration crises started arising, especially after the closure of coalmines both in France and Belgium, which absorbed a great percentage of the foreign workforce. From there on, outlets started closing for migrants and entry policy became tougher.
With the entry into force of the Schengen Agreement (19 June 1995), which stated the free movement principle among all signatory European countries, the EU States also started defining a common restrictive policy towards migration from outside the European space, establishing more difficult entry procedures. This led to closure measures resulting in the increasing phenomenon of illegal smuggling that also extended to the so-called transit countries, such as Libya.
If we look at the international legislation dealing with this new tendency, we notice that, while the law on migrant workers approved in 1990 and entered into force in 2003 guaranteed them and their families rights and benefits, it didn’t give the same attention to the illegal migrants, who were dealt with on a case-by-case basis, following only the principles of fundamental protection and “do no harm”. No doubt this has represented a failure in the international community policy dealing with the growing phenomena of illegal migration.
It would have been necessary to work out an International Convention on Migration as a whole.
The General Assembly also approved a protocol against the smuggling of migrants by land, sea and air, in November 2000, to prevent and combat migrant smuggling as well as to promote cooperation among States Parties to that end, while protecting the rights of smuggled migrants.
Both Article 14, related to training and technical cooperation among the countries signing the Convention against Transnational Crime, and Article12 related to the return of migrants, have been ineffective to concretely bringing a solution to the migration crisis.
Note that Libya ratified the Protocol in 2004.
Signing countries should be bound to this agreement and obliged to apply its provisions, particularly the ones related to Article 6, which require signatory countries to ensure that their domestic legal or administrative system contains measures that provide justice and protection to victims of trafficking in persons.
For what concerns my government, Law 19 was issued in 2010 to fight against illegal migration.
Of course you are all fully aware of the circumstances that happened in Libya afterwards.
Libya today comes and goes from the international political agenda according to the most frightening headlines of the moment: first terrorism, now migration.
But stabilizing a country which is strategically key for the EuroMed space cannot be an in-and-out issue. Our people are now confronting the painful phase of transition.
Our communities and institutional structures cannot alone control a phenomenon they are not prepared to face and manage. We need to genuinely provide all assistance and capacity-building needed to endow our territories with skills and tools improving their services to both citizens and migrants and contributing to the relief of a humanity that suffers from different angles.
The Sophia process, for instance, which implies the institutional reinforcement and skill-building of the Coast Guard, goes in the right direction if applied and developed over time in Libya.
To quickly achieve stabilisation in the country, it is also important to support all legitimate authorities to help them extend their action to best respond to our people’s needs, bringing back trust in institutions and therefore in the State of Law.
The transition in Libya is constantly growing in peripheral conflicts and chaos, and this is also due mainly to the fact that international cooperation lacked immediate support in Disarmament programs after the liberation in 2011, which now results in a proliferation of weapons.
This environment has favoured the appearance on the scene of many other negative aspects: radicalism, terrorism and increasing numbers of illegal migrants. Of course, in this overall chaotic situation it is very difficult to plan and manage the different crises. As a transit country, constant instability has favoured the arrival of illegal migrants but not from neighbouring countries and they are the ones who mainly board towards Europe.
As a receiving country, in such circumstances where we cannot even respond to our citizens’ needs, we are incapable of facing an effective planning of our economy and labour market, which would allow for a decent distribution of foreign workforce according to country’s requirements.
Libya faces an enormous challenge in having to deal with masses of people crossing its 6000 km of borders from everywhere, and it bears the consequences of this phenomenon alone, without receiving constant adequate support from any international party.
Illegal migration cannot be fought from one side only. Libya should be actively involved by receiving real support for all those services and institutions, including local governments, called to decently and effectively manage these movements of people.
Today it is difficult to determine when our transition will reach a happy end. We need all the support we can get from the international community and the European Union to gradually decrease chaos and sustain our institutions, which are currently very fragile.
Furthermore, it is important to seriously consider investment and economic cooperation in Libya. This will contribute to shortening the period of volatility and push the country towards stability and growth.
As Mayors we have a major role to play. Through partnerships, like the ones we have already developed through the Committee of the Regions in the framework of the Nicosia Initiative, we can address key territorial issues based on common shared interests.
We are the ones who measure the pulse of our territories and communities and can apply best practices at a small scale that can provide valuable solutions to our policymakers at governmental level.
Therefore, I warmly invite you, dear colleagues, to look at Libya as a trustful regional partner, who will actively contribute to peace and prosperity, through involvement in regional policymaking and joint action that will bring the Mediterranean at the core of a new renaissance where the Person and his or her dignity play the main role.
Managing mobility strategically, agreeing on migrant quotas for low- and highly-skilled employment, providing proper training and equipment to coast guards, border police, local authorities and health facilities is not rocket science to be constantly debated and most of all it doesn't need thousands of people to die in both water and sand!
Thank you again for inviting me and thank you for listening.