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235,000 Refugees Waiting at Libyan Coast to Cross to Italy

(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)

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Close to 235,000 refugees are waiting at Libyan coasts to start their journey to Italy across the Mediterranean, according to a UN official.

“We have on our lists 235,000 migrants who are just waiting for a good opportunity to depart for Italy, and they will do it,” said Martin Kobler, the head of the UN envoy to Libya.

Kobler said that Libya’s political authorities must come together to prevent such a large number of refugee from crossing to Europe.

Libya lacks adequate security forces, a unified army, trained police and coast guards to be able to prevent smugglers and gangs from trafficking refugees to Europe. These criminals make millions by shipping people from Libya to Europe in poorly maintained boats.

Libyan forces have been fighting against ISIS and are now nearing the end of their battles to eliminate the extremist group from Sirte.

“Very soon, ISIL (ISIS) will no longer have control over territory in Libya,” said Kobler.

“This is quite encouraging and could give hope to the country. At the same time, however, we need to stay vigilant, because terrorism is not finished and ISIL’s (ISIS) militants will try to disperse to other regions.”

Since January, there have been over 128,000 refugees who made the journey from Libya to Italy, putting added stress to Italy’s resources to handle asylum seekers and refugees.

The UN-backed Libyan unity Government (GNA) is having a hard time asserting its authority in the land. The GNA’s arch rival, General Khalifa Haftar, is backing the Libyan parliament based in Tobruk and has refused to give the GNA a vote of confidence.

Kobler said Haftar’s attempts to take over oil terminals is “very worrying” and has raised grave concerns that this could result in a new wave of fighting in Libya.

Many refugees die tragic deaths in the Mediterranean. An Irish navy ship known as the James Joyce found five dead bodies on Wednesday on a boat that was intercepted just off one of Libya’s coasts.

In coordination with the Italian navy and a non-governmental rescue group, the Irish navy was able to save about 650 from the boat they intercepted.

The UN recently reported that less than half of the six million refugee children are attending schools.

“This represents a crisis for millions of refugee children,” said UNHCR’s Filippo Grandi.

For the first time, the UN will be holding a summit on refugees in New York on September 19.

US President Barack Obama is hosting a conference the following day where countries will be asked to participate in supporting refugees coming from various parts of the world.

“As the international community considers how best to deal with the refugee crisis, it is essential that we think beyond basic survival,” said Grandi.

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