At least 235,000 migrants and refugees are on the coast of Libya waiting to cross the Mediterranean to Italy, a United Nations official has warned.
The only way to stop the exodus is to bring together Libya’s competing factions and vanquish Isil in their stronghold in the coastal city of Sirte, he told ‘La Stampa’, an Italian newspaper.
Libya needs a strong army, police and coast guard to be able to take on the smuggling gangs who make millions of euro trafficking men, women and children across the sea to the shores of Italy.
Isil’s position is being steadily eroded after a months-long assault by Libyan forces. “Very soon, Isil will no longer have control over territory in Libya,” Mr Kobler said.
“This is quite encouraging and could give hope to the country. At the same time, however, we need to stay vigilant, because terrorism is not finished and Isil’s militants will try to disperse to other regions.”
So far this year, more than 128,000 migrants have reached Italy from the North African coast, straining to the limit Italy’s capacity to accommodate them and process their asylum applications.
Two reports released yesterday highlighted the immense scale of the refugee and migrant crisis. The United Nations refugee agency reported that of the world’s six million refugee children, fewer than half are in school. Of those, nearly 900,000 are Syrian children, their lives shattered by their country’s civil war.
“This represents a crisis for millions of refugee children,” said the UNHCR’s Filippo Grandi. His comments came ahead of the first-ever UN summit on refugees and migrants, to be held in New York on Monday.