Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Libya coastguard battles to save migrants with one boat

07 May 2015, 06:59

Zuwarah - In their struggle to cope with the surge in illegal migrants bound for Europe, the coastguard in the Libyan port of Zuwarah have just one boat, and even that often breaks down.

Situated 60km from the Tunisian border, Zuwarah also is the Libyan port nearest to European soil - the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa.

"We have only one boat left over from the old regime, which often breaks down, to monitor the entire coastline of Zuwarah," said Anwar al-Atushi, who heads the area's coastguard.

"Only 15 coastguards work, with their own means, to rescue migrants at sea and bring them to port before handing them over to the security services," the official added.

The coastguards' boat, which can only carry 10 people, is moored in the harbour next to fishing trawlers.

"When the number of migrants is high, we ask permission from the owners of the fishing boats to use them."

As elsewhere along Libya's 1 770km coastline, the flow of illegal migrants from Zuwarah has skyrocketed amid the turmoil in Libya as two rival governments and a mishmash of militias vie for power.

These shores are less than 300km from Lampedusa, which now shelters thousands of migrants who have fled conflicts in Africa and the Middle East in an attempt to reach Europe.

The government in Tripoli, which is not recognised by the international community, has launched a public relations campaign to show it needs outside help to handle the influx of would-be migrants.

It has taken journalists on tours of detention centres that it says house 7 000 people stopped as they prepared to set sail across the Mediterranean.

'Primitive methods'

The authorities in Tripoli are eager to show they lack the resources to handle the upsurge that the United Nations says saw 110 000 migrants passing through Libyan territory in 2014.

"We use boats and small Zodiacs [inflatable dinghies] to boost our operations against clandestine migration," said Rida Issa, head of the coastguard service for central Libya.

"But we need another 10 equipped boats" to do the job properly, he added.

Also read: Chad, Niger forgotten by aid donors - UN

Zuwarah is also close to regions that see daily clashes between forces of the recognised government and the Fajr Libya militia alliance that controls Tripoli and most of western Libya.

"Our mission is essentially to protect the city and all security threats," said Mohamed Salem, a member of Zuwarah's security forces.

"We have nothing left over for the fight against illegal migration.

"We lack detention centres and the finances... Sometimes we pay from our own pockets to feed the migrants we arrest."


Salem pointed out that the country has suddenly found itself in the middle of a crisis that Europe itself is unable to resolve.

In Zuwarah, "we only have one car" for patrols and arrest operations, he said.

"Our methods are very primitive and the government is doing nothing.

"We need 4x4 utility vehicles, boats, planes and facilities to accommodate those we arrest," said Salem.

Among the equipment needed are "weapons to deal with people smugglers, along with communications and night-vision tools".

The European Union has announced a series of measures, tripling its budget for patrols off Libya and even mooting the idea of military action against smugglers.

But Salem said that "even if all the boats from all the countries in the EU were deployed, they would still fail to stop illegal migration to its shores".



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...