By for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Libya Business News.
October brings Italy highest flows of migrants from Libya
A series of shortcuts undertaken by the Italian government in Libya to stop migration flows in recent months has had serious repercussions. Earlier in October, the human smuggling hub of Sabratha erupted in battle between warring militias as a direct result of Italy’s interference in Libyan domestic affairs.
The origin of the battle can be traced back to the summer, when Italy allegedly started paying militias to halt human smuggling. Italian government figures deny these claims despite widespread reports to the contrary.
Working through the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) of Fayez al-Sarraj, the Italians funded the Martyr Anas al-Dabashi militia, commonly known as al-Ammu’s militia (the uncle’s militia), and Brigade 48, according to these reports.
Libya has been a fractured state since the 2011 civil war that overthrew Moammar Gadhafi. Today, the state has two large ruling forces with Sarraj in the west and Gen. Khalifa Hifter’s Libyan National Army (LNA) running the east. The two figures are competing for legitimacy in Libya and from international actors.
Under Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, the country has primarily worked with Sarraj. But at the same time, there is ambivalence in its actions as it has ramped up its relations with Hifter.
“[Italian Interior Minister] Marco Minniti and his colleagues have been smart, from their own selfish perspective,” Jalel Harchaoui, a doctoral candidate in geopolitics at Paris 8 University and a frequent commentator on Libyan affairs, told Al-Monitor.
“Their strategy has not hesitated to make use of several contending actors in Libya. From the perspective of Libyans, however, there has been destruction, suffering and mayhem since mid-September, triggered by Italy’s interference in northwestern Libya — this reality must be recognized,” he said.