Middle East

Libya PM 'determined' to tackle illegal immigration

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan (L) welcomes his Maltese counterpart Joseph Muscat (R) following the latter's arrival in Tripoli on October 13, 2013 to discuss the surging migration levels and the latest disasters at sea. Syrian refugees who survived after their boat capsized off Malta on October 11, in the latest disaster in the Mediterranean say they were fired on by warring trafficking gangs as they set out on their perilous journey from Libya. AFP PHOTO / STR

TRIPOLI: Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said Sunday he was "determined" to tackle illegal immigration, two days after a boat carrying migrants sank between the North African country and Malta, killing dozens.

Thirty-one people died and more than 200 people were rescued after the boat capsized on Friday after setting out from the Libyan port of Zwara.

"We are determined to deal with the problem," Zeidan said during a joint news conference with Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

Zeidan said he had asked for training and equipment from the European Union to prevent illegal immigrants leaving Libya for Europe.

He added that he had also asked the EU for "access to their satellite system" to allow Libyan authorities to monitor their maritime and land borders.

Zeidan said such access would be a "great help".

After arriving on Sunday for a short visit to Tripoli, Muscat said he had discussed boosting security cooperation and combatting illegal immigration, and would relay suggestions to his European counterparts.

Most of those who died in Friday's shipwreck were Syrian refugees fleeing the bloody conflict in their homeland.

Some 180 migrants who were saved were taken on Sunday by Italian and Maltese officials to Porto Empedocle on Sicily.

Some survivors said that they had been shot at by warring trafficking gangs as their boat left Libyan waters.

Muscat told journalists there were conflicting accounts about the shooting, with some survivors accusing border guards of opening fire and others pointing the finger at militiamen.

Zeidan said he was unable to confirm the incident, but said that authorities had opened an investigation.

Libyan authorities have previously requested Western aid, saying their fledgling government is not yet able to patrol the country's 4,000-kilometre (2,500-mile) land border with six states or its 1,700-kilometre coastline.

 

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