Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq told DW in an exclusive interview that there was "no slavery" in Libya - following multiple reports surfacing from the country over the past two years accusing it of ignoring the fact that migrants are being subjected to grave human rights abuses including forced labor and sexual abuse.
Libyan Deputy Prime
Minister Maiteeq told DW's Tim Sebastian on the "Conflict Zone" current affairs program that accusations of migrants suffering forced labor and slavery in Libya were false reports.
"This is false
information. We have no slavery in Libya," Maiteeq said in the interview, which
took place in the French capital, Paris, earlier this month.
Maiteeq, who has been
deputy prime minister of Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA)
in the capital Tripoli since March 2016, also said he wanted to receive more
help from the international community -- and Europe in particular -- to tackle the
migrant situation in Libya.
Since the collapse of
the Libyan dictatorship under Colonel Moammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has become
the prime transit country for many migrants especially from Africa. Under the
ongoing political crisis in the country that has ensued ever since the fall of
the Gaddafi regime, the Libyan government continued to struggle to manage the humanitarian situation of refugees and migrants stuck in the north African
‘No slavery in
Conflict Zone host Tim
Sebastian further belabored the question of forced labor, slavery and sexual
exploitation by asking whether Maiteeq rejected the accusations that various
human rights organizations and broadcasters around the world have been raising
against his country repeatedly in the past two years:
"You are denying what
all the reports have been saying that people are being sold to people
traffickers and women are being sold for sexual exploitation. You deny all that,
do you?" Sebastian asked the Libyan deputy prime minister. Maiteeq replied: "We have no information (about
slavery) as a government. Otherwise, we'd do our job."
The deputy prime
minister then tried to shift the focus away from reports accusing Libyans of
abusing migrants and asked Sebastian, "where are these reports when our coast
guard - with just very few vessels that we have - will save thousands of lives
every morning and every day? Where are these reports when we try to help these
immigrants in the middle of the (Libyan) Sahara desert?"
"We've been working a
lot to save the lives of immigrants. We believe that we should have better
reports and (a) better understanding of the problems if the international
community is committed and willing to work with the Libyans - not sending only
messages about slavery in Libya," Maiteeq added.
Slavery commission set
DW host Tim Sebastian
also highlighted that Deputy Prime Minister Maiteeq had -- despite all his
protest in the interview -- personally agreed to set up an investigation
committee to look into accusations of slavery taking place in Libya following a
UN report issued in 2017.
however, that there had been no news on any progress with regards to this
committee and that "the UN had never heard about it," to which Maiteeq first
replied, "our minister of justice leads this commission" only to contradict
himself moments later, saying: "our minister of internal (affairs) heads this
"They've done two public
announcements about the whole report, (finding) there is no (such) thing as
slavery in Libya." Sebastian stressed that Maiteeq's claim was "simply in
direct contradiction to all reports that are pointing to it."
disappear; they walk out'
Tim Sebastian also
grilled the deputy prime minister about another issue that has repeatedly
surfaced in recent months within the migrant context in Libya: the ongoing
disappearance of migrants. In addition to reports about migrant ships in the Mediterranean being deliberately sunk by rogue elements in Libya's coast guard,
Sebastian also highlighted the issue of disappearances of migrants and refugees
from Libya's migrant centers -- in particular the case of more than 150 migrants
vanishing from the Souq-al-Khamis migrant detention facility in
"They didn't disappear.
They went out from the center," Maiteeq told the "Conflict Talk" host. "We have
a lot of migrants in Libya not staying in those centers," he added, implying
that they had left of their own volition.
Sebastian said that
according to reports from various observers the missing migrants from the
facility in al-Khoms were also believed to have been sold off into
The deputy prime minister admitted in the DW interview that some 800,000 migrants were presently
in the country, saying that Libya alone could "not deal with the immigrant
"We have a problem with
our borders. We have a problem with refugees. We have a problem of illegal
immigrants. We cannot do it all at the same time," Maiteeq said, accusing the
European Union of failing to keep its promises of assistance to Libya and
appealing to the international community for more help:
"We are an African
nation, an Arab nation and a Mediterranean (nation)," he said. "And there is a
responsibility that lies on our shoulders as the Government of Libya. But we are
in a time of conflict. And that's why we need the international community to
stand by us, helping us manage this."
"We are doing our best
to keep this up to standard."
Millions in funds only
saving few thousand lives
According to an EU
spokesperson, nearly $100 million have been paid to the International
Organization for Migration (IOM) in Libya since 2016 to tackle the crisis, in
addition to more than $50 million given to the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR).
including voluntary return and resettlement initiatives have only succeeded in
helping a few thousand migrants in the country. Hundreds of thousands more
remain in Libya living under perilous conditions.