Italy says an international force aimed at limiting the number of people sailing from Libya to Europe could be ready by July.
Some observers are worried that the number of people arriving in Europe could jump because travel by land through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked.
Most of the new arrivals are migrants. They have fled their home country and chosen to go overseas, usually for economic reasons.
Libyan security forces raided a home in the city of Tripoli last week. They detained more than 200 migrants from across Africa. They also captured a suspected smuggler.
More than 16,000 people sailed from North Africa to Italy in the first three months of 2016. That is almost two times as many as the number who traveled across the Mediterranean during the same period in 2015.
The United States has offered to support a proposed naval operation off the coast of Libya. The international force would be under the command of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization).
But it is not known what the ships would do if they find migrants in boats sailing for Europe.
Riccardo Fabiani is a policy expert at the Eurasia Group. He said some observers say the migrants will be returned to their home countries in Africa. But he said it is clear that the African governments do not support that plan. And he said that returning them to Libya is not under consideration because the Libyan government does not have the ability to care for them.
Western nations hope to increase Libya’s ability to feed and house the refugees by supporting a new unity government in the country. It is known as the Government of National Accord. Its goal is to persuade competing groups from the eastern and western parts of the country to work together.
Fabiani said the unity government is “taking over ministries and taking over departments and taking over government buildings, and there is backing at most levels for it; however, the situation in the east is very different. And that is where I think we are facing a stalemate.”
The new government welcomed British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to Tripoli last week. Libyan officials showed him the country’s naval patrol boats.
Hammond said British troops could be sent to train Libyan security forces. Recently, U.S. President Barack Obama said he would not send American troops to help train Libyan forces.
“I do not think it would be welcomed by this new government. It would send the wrong signal. This is a matter that Libyans (must) come together on,” he said.
I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.
Words in This Story
smuggler – n. a criminal who moves (someone or something) from one country into another illegally and secretly
stalemate – n. a contest, dispute, competition, etc., in which neither side can gain an advantage or win