*Video available in Arabic only
“We are slaves to the weather, our small boats can’t move easily if the sea is rough, and when the sea is not calm we are powerless. Several requests were made for assistance from the governments concerned. We even asked the European Union during several meetings with the European political and military leaders that they return our boats they are keeping in Italy. They have been ready since August 2014 but so far they have not returned them. They make many promises, but our capacities remain the same, and the victims of illegal immigration are increasingly numerous at sea.
I do not see any problem in Operation Sophia in itself. But the biggest problem is the will of European politicians, who want to show their peoples that they are doing everything to protect them from this phenomenon. We the military just follow instructions. This operation is merely propaganda for the media. The problem is the European political decision that put it in place.
The presence of military vessels near the Libyan coast, and in addition that of the NGOs’ ships, while they all aiming at saving migrants, has certainly helped to encourage illegal migration.
Before that, we saved dozens of people, now we have to save tens of thousands. And when the number of people trying to leave increases, the number of victims also increases. This is a normal consequence. It is irrelevant to say that we are helping immigrants, whereas the victims pay the price of this scheme. Since these vessels came closer to our coasts, especially the boats of the NGOs, over the last year, the number of victims has increased.
The number of migrants has increased, and they have become much more audacious. Even the number of families and children increased. In addition, many of them rebelled against the Libyan boats. They say, “Wait, there are boats waiting for me to take me to Europe”, sometimes they even rebel against the gendarmes who arrest them. All this has been happened in the past year.The proximity of the ships has a negative effect. Sometimes you find vessels from Operation Sophia only 12 nautical miles from the Libyan coast.
And the first beneficiaries of this operation are not Europe or Libya, but rather the traffickers. Irregular immigration has become an increasingly prosperous trade, and smugglers have further increased their profits.
There should be pressure on the border states of Libya like Niger or Chad to close their borders. They agreed to deploy troops at the borders. But they asked for logistical support to accomplish this mission. These funds spent in the rescue operation at sea could have been used in an operation to protect the borders of Libya, to fight illegal immigration.
Why are there not repatriation operations in the countries of origin as soon as migrants arrive in Europe, in order to dissuade others from following the same path? Why are there no investigations on the workshops and companies that manufacture and export in Libya boats used for illegal immigration? Many of these boats come from Egypt, China, Turkey, and some European countries. And the European intelligence services know this very well.
When migrants understand that they can no longer cross borders, because there will be no more ships, for example, they will lose hope and will be forced to return home. And it will convince others not to come.
But keeping migrants in Europe, by turning a blind eye to the floods of boats arriving in Libya, whose origins and manufacturers are well known in Europe, while weeping over the fate of the victims of shipwreck, can only maintain a vicious circle. “