During his visit to Benghazi last week, Peter Millett laid a wreath at the Commonwealth War Cemetery that was vandalised by Islamic militamen. He also confirmed that Britain is giving more than a £1 Million to train Explosive Ordnance Disposal operators and paramedics in the east of Libya; an example of the United Kingdom’s equal commitment “to all of Libya”.
See Chapter 6 of Belfast to Benghazi for the story of the attack on the cemetery and the background to the de-mining programme, which we set up in 2012.
Yesterday a United Nations flight was refused permission to land at Tobruk airport, which has caused chaos and embarrassment among the House of Representatives.
All Tobruk flights must now land at Benghazi’s Benina airport, but this is a six hour drive through insecure areas to Tobruk, so it wastes a day’s work. Last month the commander of the Libyan National Army closed the town’s port to all but local trade against the wishes of the people.
See Chapter 6 of Belfast to Benghazi to read about the British visit to Tobruk on 14th February 2012 when we were asked by the Libyan Air Force to rebuild the air base.
The United Nations has described the European Union’s operation to patrol the coast of Libya as “inhuman”.
This strong criticism by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, shows a remarkable split between the two international organisations most involved in the reconstruction of Libya. In September, the UN recorded 7,000 migrants being held in camps, but as a result of the EU-backed clampdown, during which thousands of migrants were captured in the major trafficking hub of Sabratha, the figure has increased to 20,000 detainees.
At the beginning of November, UN human rights monitors inspected four migrant holding centres and were “shocked by what they witnessed”. Thousands of emaciated and traumatised men, women and children were piled on top of one another, locked up in hangars with no access to the most basic necessities, and stripped of their human dignity. The Commissioner said: “We cannot be a silent witness to modern day slavery, rape and other sexual violence and unlawful killings in the name of managing migration and preventing desperate and traumatised people from reaching Europe’s shores”.
Chapter 6 of Belfast to Benghazi explains how the UN was given the lead for reconstruction in Libya, but the EU did its own thing in 2012.
The announcement that the British Embassy in Tripoli will re-open after a gap of three years is a welcome sign of diplomatic progress. The chancellery and ambassador’s residence, burned by Qaddafi’s henchmen in 2011, occupies disputed land, so it will not be rebuilt. The Embassy in Tripoli Towers was a place of new hope in 2012 and can assist the Libyans resume their important place in the International Community as a leading nation in North Africa.
See Chapter 6 of Belfast of Benghazi to read about the rebuilding work completed at the British Embassy in 2012.