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Exclusive: Libya’s South Overwhelmed by Illegal Trafficking, Drugs & Corruption

Exclusive: Libya’s South Overwhelmed by Illegal Trafficking, Drugs & Corruption

Thursday, 7 December, 2017 - 12:45
A street from the city of Sabha, south of Libya, Asharq Al-Awsat

Libyan citizen Sulaiman al-Barshi did not forget the moment his friend Osama al-Wafi died right in front of the Commercial Bank in Sabha, 640 kilometers south of Tripoli, in mid-October.

The two were standing in a long queue to receive some of the liquidated banknotes made available.

"My friend Wafi died while we were still in queues to get cash. Even cooking gas, we have been getting it with difficulty-- the government left us as easy prey to the black market,” says Barshi.

 “We also began to hear about the establishment of a US military base on our territory,” he adds.

Barashi's expressed great rage in his interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, reflecting the darkening atmosphere in the south.

Over the past months "injustice, corruption and neglect" had swept the region.

"In the south, we buy a liter of state-subsidized gasoline with a dinar and a half to three dinars, although the price in West and East Libya does not exceed 15 piastres, we pay for the practices of organized crime gangs trafficked out of the country to be sold in European markets."

Like other Libyans, Barashi said the absence of the state and the decline in public services affected the south, like other cities, and turned it into a hub for illegal trafficking since the fall of the former regime in 2011.

 A large number of young people work in trafficking businesses and join armed groups, member of the Libyan House of Representatives in Sabha Mesbah Ohayda told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Ohayda went on saying that “the south continued to suffer marginalization from successive governments, total absence of state, tribal or social differences, and the lack of uniform control over the south.”

He pointed out that the south shares borders with four countries, making it a major source of influx of terrorist groups and illegal immigration.

More so, Italian Interior Minister Marco Minetti said control of Libya’s southern border is “critical” to fight illegal immigration and counter-terrorism.

According to the Italian news agency Aki, Mennetti said he “does not rule out” foreign fighters, who joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq, to use migration flows to reach Europe.

Italian Prime Minister, Paolo Gentiloni has expressed the same thought.

The head of the internationally-recognized Presidential Council Fayez al-Sarraj called on the international community to help Libya in securing its southern border to reduce the number of migrants.

For his part, Sheikh Ibrahim Wardko Yasko, President of the Senate of the tribe of Tabu (based in southern Libya), said that the problems of the South are caused by political and security vacuum, in addition to tribal wars.

In Yasko’s opinion, this has caused the collapse of social trust and led to a rift within the society’s fabric.

The south, which covers about 300 km, is suffering from a serious trafficking business, which covers at best drugs.

Yasko added on human trafficking that "the problem is not in the migrants who risk their lives and hard-earned money in order to search for a decent life, but in international organizations working the scene.”

"Sarraj, during his recent visit to the United States, agreed to establish a US military base in the southern Libyan region," Sheikh Ibrahim said.

"Personally, I do not rule that out, America's entry into the Libyan scene is useful... France is already present on the ground, and its role alongside the Italian role is very limited in face of challenges in Libya,” he added. 

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