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Libya Clamps Down On Illegal Migrant Workers

posted 20 Nov 2013, 06:40 by Mpelembe   [ updated 20 Nov 2013, 06:40 ]

Libya is clamping down on the number of people working illegally in the country, with many of the migrant workers coming from Sub-Saharan Africa.

TRIPOLILIBYA (NOVEMBER 11 and 12, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Once a transit point to Europe for illegal immigrants, Libya has now become the point of settlement for many looking for a better life.

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Migrant workers are coming into Libya by their thousands from the Sub Saharan countries ofAfrica, taking advantage of the country's weak border security. Once they've found their way to the North African state, they find their way to jobs and stability -- which is raising the ire of many Libyans.

At checkpoints set up in the streets of Tripoli, officers from the illegal immigration unit are busy checking the papers of migrant workers they come across. They often arrest immigrants who don't have the necessary paperwork, but who are still working and living in the country. Officers say the state is suffering from enormous illegal migration rates given the current weak state of border security.

"Whoever has the proper papers we will let him go, but whoever doesn't must be deported. The average number of illegal immigrants deported is up to 50 or 60 immigrants daily, and of course there are a number of infected people in that group, which is around 12 to 15 percent, who might have malaria, HIV or Hepatitis,'' said Saed Feras, leader of the illegal immigration unit.

At the illegal immigration medical laboratory in Tripoli, doctors express concern as medical tests conducted on the immigrants reveal that many of them are infected with serious diseases.

"There are some immigrants who have the correct residence papers and have the correct paperwork, but they have diseases. This one is working in a bakery, and his medical certificate expired in June 2013, he should have his certificate renewed and he needs to come here to do the required tests at the Alzwaya Street (clinic). But since June he's still working and he has Hepatitis B,'' said Dr. Ali Naji.

Libya has long been a transit point for migrant workers seeking better prospects in Europe, and only last month more than 300 people drowned or were feared dead after a boat packed with African migrants caught fire and sank off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa. The vessel had set out from the Libyan port of Misrata.

Libyans say they are being impacted by the influx of foreign workers, who make it to Libya only to discover that they don't have enough money to make it to Europe.

"Europe and the rest of the world think that immigrants are just passing through Libya making it a passing point, but in fact they settle here, they get jobs and Libya is suffering from the diseases that they are bringing with them," said said Ahmed Alwerfali, a warden at Abu Salim refugee centre in Tripoli.

Libya is home to more than a dozen refugee centres, which are overflowing, as scores of people await deportation.

Last month Libya's Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said he was 'determined' to deal with illegal immigration, and asked for assistance from the European Union to help tackle the issue.