Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio meets Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha at the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome, Farnesina Palace, 3 February 2020 |Photo: EPA/Claudio Peri
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio meets Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha at the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome, Farnesina Palace, 3 February 2020 |Photo: EPA/Claudio Peri

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio announced that Italy will soon present the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) a series of amendments to improve the contents of the bilateral memorandum on migration; "with particular regard to respecting the rights of migrants and asylum seekers."

Italy is ready to present the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) a series of amendments to its bilateral Memorandum of Understanding. It is hoped the amendments will improve treatment of migrants in Libyan detention camps. 

Libya is asking Rome to provide political clarity on its support to the GNA of Prime Minister Fayez al Serraj, as well as material aid in order to manage a very difficult situation following months of war. 

Libyan authorities are finding themselves having to manage 300,000 displaced persons and the closure of five migrant camps located in the line of fire. The issues at stake were revealed on Monday during a visit to Rome by Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga, who was received by his Italian colleague Luciana Lamorgese along with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio. 

'Italian support to the Sarraj government'

Di Maio confirmed the Italian government's support for the UN-recognised GNA in Libya and ensured Italy would make the maximum effort to find a political solution to the Libyan crisis, beginning with the full enactment of the results of the Berlin Conference. 

Di Maio also announced that Italy will soon present "a series of amendments aimed at improving the contents of the 2017 bilateral memorandum on migration, with particular regard to respecting the rights of migrants and asylum seekers." The political left and parts of the Democratic Party (PD) have attacked the memorandum in recent days, invoking respect for human rights as a precondition for continuing collaboration with Tripoli. This topic was part of Monday's meetings in Rome, in which Bashaga also set forth Libya's conditions.

A war is currently underway in Libya and Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte met with the aggressor, Khalifa Haftar, one month ago. Bashaga is a bitter enemy of Haftar, a former marshall of Muammar Gaddafi, and therefore came to Rome with a request for clarity from Italy. "If Rome effectively backs the government of Tripoli, it needs to show it with concrete facts," Bashaga said. Di Maio reassured Bashaga that the Italian government would do so. 

Continued collaboration 

Lamorgese also reaffirmed Italy's complete willingness to continue its collaboration with Libya, highlighting the importance of not pulling back on controls over departing boats, which have seen an uptick in the past month. 

The Libyans are asking for aid to set up camps currently in disuse and strengthen sea patrols and equipment (radar, unarmed drones) to control the extensive southern border. However, it is unclear on which side the tribes along the border are. All of these points are covered in the memorandum, but it is difficult to enact them with the war underway. 

On the question of the camps, the intention is to work on a plan that gives a clear signal with respect for the rights of detained migrants, with the collaboration of Europe and the UN agencies UNHCR and IOM. This plan too, however, is difficult to enact while war is still underway and the detention camps become targets. Nevertheless, negotiations will continue, in the hope of a true and lasting ceasefire.

Both sides also mentioned the intention of reactivating the Italy-Libya Joint Commission, in the hope of making communication between the two sides more fluid.
 

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