"[Libya] will refuse any initiative for the repatriation of illegal migrants towards its territory," Foreign Minister Muhammad Sayala was quoted as saying by the Libyan news agency LANA. "Libya will not accept in any way what is said by some news reports about the repatriation of illegal migrants to the North African countries they have come from."
Migrants an 'enormous burden' for Libya
Sayala also said: "Libya does not accept and will not accept this unjust and illegitimate measure. On its territory are over 700,000 illegal migrants that are an enormous burden from every point of view. These migrants must go back to where they came from."
As a transit country for migrants, Sayala believes that Libya "has suffered and is suffering incredibly from the phenomenon of illegal migration."
"This phenomenon should be dealt with in a global and serious manner by the entire international community and there needs to be pressure put on the migrants' countries of origin," Sayala said.
Italian interior minister's 'threat'
The statements came after Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini had threatened
to send the migrants that were rescued by the Italian Coast Guard ship Diciotti back to Libya if the EU were not to step in and redistribute them in other countries. "Either Europe decides to help Italy in a serious manner, beginning with the [...] migrants on the Diciotti ship [...] or we will be forced to do what will stop the traffickers' business once and for all. And that means taking the people rescued at sea back to a Libyan port," Salvini said on August 19.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR has said that because Libya is not considered a safe place for migrants, they should not be send back there.