Libyan foreign minister Mohamed Taher Siyala has rejected the idea that his country would take back refugees rescued in the Mediterranean Sea.
Speaking at this year’s two-day OSCE Mediterranean Conference Siala said that by sending these people back to Libya, the European Union (EU) would be shirking its own responsibilities and instead “dumping them on our shoulders.”
The only instance in which they would be accepted back is if they had a Libyan visa, he later noted at a joint press conference with Austrian foreign affairs minister Sebastian Kurz and UN Special Representative for the Support Mission in Libya Martin Kobler.
Siala also criticized the idea touted by many European officials of establishing EU-run asylum centres in Libya. Ongoing factional violence there makes such a proposal unrealistic for the Libyan government.
The diplomat argued that with about 235,000 refugees currently in Libya hoping to travel onward to Europe, his country was already a transit-zone for refugees, and that refugee camps had already been established for them. Adequate medical aid was also presently a problem.
He also said he hoped for European support in finalizing repatriation deals with the African countries of origin of the refugees. Relevant talks have already taken place with EU foreign policy Chief Federica Mogherini, he noted, adding the EU must now put pressure on the African states in question.