Cablegate: Death of Key Libyan Official Hampers Counter-Migration Efforts
PP RUEHBW RUEHDU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHROV
DE RUEHTRO #0382/01 1331614
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P R 121614Z MAY 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3424
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RUEHVT/AMEMBASSY VALLETTA 0298
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 0503
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 0672
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 1091
RUEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 3928
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000382
DEPT FOR PRM AND NEA/MAG E.O. 12958: DECL: 5/8/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV PREF LY IT MT
SUBJECT: DEATH OF KEY LIBYAN OFFICIAL HAMPERS COUNTER-MIGRATION EFFORTS REF: TRIPOLI 0050 TRIPOLI 00000382 001.4 OF 002
CLASSIFIED BY: Chris Stevens, CDA, Embassy Tripoli, Dept of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1.(SBU) Summary: High season for illegal migrants departing Libya for European shores continues; more than half of a group of 70 migrants that made landfall in Malta during a recent 48-hour window claimed to have departed from Libya. The unexpected death of a key Libyan official has set back Malta's campaign to improve Libya's performance in its search and rescue area and efforts to finalize training and repatriation agreements. End summary.
HIGH SEASON FOR ILLEGAL MIGRANTS
2.(SBU) Maltese Ambassador Joseph Cassar pulled P/E Chief aside for a conversation on illegal migration as the latter penned a message in the condolences book for the recently deceased Sir Anthony Mamo, the first President of Malta. Saying it had been "a bad week", Cassar noted that more than 70 illegal migrants had made landfall and requested asylum in Malta during a single 48-hour period earlier this week. More than half of the 70 individuals claimed to have departed from Libya's coast, prompting Valletta to task its embassy in Tripoli to reiterate requests that the GOL increase patrols in its Search and Rescue area (SAR). Cassar noted that more vessels transporting illegal migrants appear to be calling via satellite telephones to claim distress and request assistance immediately after entering Malta's SAR. He suggested that they did so to mitigate the chance that they would founder before being rescued.
KEY OFFICIAL'S DEATH DIMINISHES LIBYA'S RESPONSIVENESS
3.(SBU) Cassar said the GOL's response to the Maltese demarche had been "disappointing". He noted that the unexpected death six weeks ago of Engineer Fawzi Ghariba, former Director of International Cooperation for Libya's Port Authority-equivalent and a key interlocutor on counter-migration efforts, had negatively impacted the GOL's responsiveness on illegal migration issues at a critical time. (Note: Launches from Libya of vessels transporting illegal migrants typically increase in spring/summer months to take advantage of improved weather and sea conditions. End note.) Describing Ghariba's operating style as "American", he said the late official played a key role in finalizing recent Malta-Libya and Italy-Malta bilateral cooperation agreements on migration issues (reftel). More importantly, Ghariba was an energetic and efficient operator and one of the only GOL officials who approached illegal migration with any sense of urgency. In several cases, Ghariba had galvanized the GOL to deal with migration issues and prompted disparate GOL entities to coordinate their efforts through the force of his personality. On instructions from Valletta, Cassar has asked the GOL several times when a successor to Ghariba might be identified; however, the GOL has demurred, saying it would be unseemly to rush to appoint a replacement.
BROADER EFFORTS ON TRAINING, READMISSION AGREEMENTS ALSO IMPACTED
4.(C) Cassar said Malta has focused on enhancing training for Libyan CG officials patrolling Libya's SAR area. He said efforts to finalize an agreement to provide such training, as well as a readmission agreement under which migrants found to have entered Malta illegally could be returned to their country of departure (Libya) rather than their countries of origin, had been frozen since Ghariba's death. (Comment: A number of European countries have been pursuing similar readmission agreements with the GOL. All have encountered significant difficulty in attempting to finalize those, suggesting that factors other than Ghariba's death may bear on Malta's efforts. End comment.) He encouraged the U.S. to continue focusing on training and material assistance for Libya's CG. (Note: Two Libyan CG officers are scheduled to participate in upcoming training programs at a facility in Malta that uses a U.S. Coast Guard curriculum. End note.) Suggesting that he did not agree with Valletta's position that equipment donations [i.e., by wealthier EU countries like Italy] to Libya to combat illegal migration be predicated on the GOL "taking greater responsibility" for its SAR, Cassar described the Libyan CG's equipment needs as "considerable".
5.(C) Comment: The dramatic impact of the death of a single official underscores the severely limited capacity of many quarters of the GOL. Some of the lack of coordination likely reflects the persistence of differing views within the GOL as to how to address the problem. Some GOL officials maintain that illegal migration is a purely external phenomena of which Libya is a victim; they argue that Libya's responsibility for managing TRIPOLI 00000382 002.4 OF 002 the trend is limited and that European states in particular should devote greater resources to economic development and other aid in sub-Saharan Africa to reduce migrant outflows. End comment.