The US said Wednesday it was “deeply concerned” about an ongoing closure of key oil installations in Libya, calling for the shutdowns to end “immediately”.
The closure of several sites this month, including oilfields and export terminals, has seen Libya’s output halve to around 600,000 barrels per day.
“The United States is deeply concerned by the continued oil shutdown, which is depriving Libyans of substantial revenue,” the US embassy in Tripoli said.
“Responsible Libyan leaders must recognise that the shutdown harms Libyans throughout the country and has repercussions across the global economy, and should end it immediately,” it added in a statement.
The closures follow the latest political fissure in the North African country, which in February saw parliament select a new prime minister — ex-interior minister Fathi Bashagha — in a direct challenge to Tripoli-based premier Abdulhamid Dbeibah.
Analysts say eastern Libyan forces who back Bashagha have forced the closure of the oil facilities in a bid to press Dbeibah to step down, but the incumbent insists he will only hand power to an elected successor.
Libya’s reduced output also comes as global oil prices remain under pressure since Russia, an OPEC+ producer, invaded Ukraine in February.
The political bloc supporting Bashagha is aligned with Libya’s eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar, who in 2019-20 led a failed offensive against Tripoli, accompanied by his forces blockading oilfields.
Haftar’s external backers include Russia.
The US embassy also said it was continuing to press for the “creation of a temporary Libyan financial mechanism” that would “prevent the diversion of funds for partisan political purposes.”
Analysts say the latest blockade was triggered by the National Oil Corporation agreeing to transfer $8 billion in oil revenues to Dbeibah’s government.
Libya has been mired in conflict for long stretches since longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi was deposed and killed in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.
Libya’s National Oil Corporation announced Sunday the closure of production at a major oil field in the country’s south, declaring a “force majeure”.
“On Saturday… the Al-Fil field was subjected to arbitrary closure attempts, due to the entry of a group of individuals and the prevention of the field’s workers from continuing production,” the NOC said on Facebook.
It added that the field was shut down on Sunday — marking the second closure in a matter of weeks — “making it impossible for the NOC to implement its contractual obligations”.
The firm said it “is obliged to declare a state of force majeure” and would no longer be able to provide crude to the Mellitah complex on the country’s northwestern coast.
Declaring force majeure is a legal move allowing parties to free themselves from contractual obligations when factors such as fighting or natural disasters make meeting them impossible.
According to Libya’s state news agency, the closure comes after a group of individuals declared that they were halting production “until a government appointed by parliament takes office in the capital”.
Libya has recently once again found itself with two rival governments after the eastern-based parliament in February appointed a new prime minister in a direct challenge to the UN-brokered government in Tripoli.
The move underlines the extent of divisions in the war-wracked country as observers fear a renewed descent into violence.
Al-Fil, some 750 kilometres southwest of Tripoli, is jointly managed by the NOC and Italian energy giant ENI and produces around 70,000 barrels of oil per day.
The field had already been forced to close temporarily in early March when an armed group shut down valves delivering crude.
Oil revenues are vital to the economy of Libya, a country sitting on Africa’s largest known reserves.
Around 70 migrants are presumed dead after going missing off the Libyan coast since late February, the International Organization for Migration said Thursday.
The United Nations agency said 22 migrants had been found dead after boats capsized on February 27 and March 12, with 47 still missing.
In the latter tragedy, a boat reportedly carrying 25 migrants capsized off the Libyan port city of Tobruk, bringing the total number of migrants reported dead or missing in the central Mediterranean to 215 so far this year, it said.
“I am appalled by the continuing loss of life in the Central Mediterranean and the lack of action to tackle this ongoing tragedy,” said Federico Soda, IOM’s Libya chief.
He called for “concrete action to reduce loss of life … through dedicated and proactive search and rescue and a safe disembarkation mechanism”.
“Each missing migrant report represents a grieving family searching for answers about their loved ones,” he added.
One hundred and sixty-two Nigerians stranded in Libya have returned to the country.
The returnees arrived at the Cargo Wing of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Ikeja, Lagos at about 3:56pm on Tuesday aboard Boeing 737-800 Al Buraq Air with registration number 5A-DMG.
According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), 41 of the 162 returnees are female adults, five are girls, six are female infants, 96 are adult males, nine are boys and five are male infants.
It added that of the returnees brought back to the country by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), three male adults have minor medical issues.
NEMA said it was the 91st flight to convey Nigerians stranded in Libya back to the country since April 2017, while at least 24,000 people have since returned to Nigeria.
Other agencies whose officials were on the ground with NEMA include the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), and the police, among others.
The arrival of the returnees are captured in the photos below:
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has received another batch of 128 stranded Nigerian returnees from Libya.
The Director-General of NEMA, Mustapha Ahmed, who was represented by the NEMA Lagos Territorial Office Coordinator, Ibrahim Farinloye, received the Voluntary Assisted Returnees at the Cargo Wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Ikeja on Tuesday evening.
The IOM-assisted returnees arrived aboard Al Buraq Air Boeing 100 – 800 with registration number 5A-DMG.
Profiles of the returnees indicated that 80 adult males, 8 male children, and 2 male infants along with 30 adult females, 4 female children, and 4 female infants, were voluntarily assisted back to the country by the IOM.
A 29 years old distressed young woman, while narrating her ordeals, regretted how she had been misled by her mother to embark on a fruitless journey.
Miss Tosin Omole alleged that her mother was approached by a street sister who sweet-talked her into convincing her daughter to embark on the journey to Europe, but the final destination changed.
The unsuspecting victim obeyed her mother by embarking on the journey after pressures became unbearable; she left her three-month-old son behind in the care of her mum.
According to her, the child is bout 6 years old now.
Ms Omole narrated how the proposed journey to Europe became a hellish life of prostitution in Libya.
“My trafficker paid for the journey from Nigeria to Libya which started on 26th February 2016.
“Before leaving Nigeria, my trafficker had informed me that I will refund the money spent on me for the journey though she did not tell me the amount.
“I ended up paying her 2.2 million naira equivalent by engaging in aristo (prostitution) throughout my 6 years’ sojourn.
“After this, my initial trafficker sold me to another burga (trafficker), I paid 1 million to the new man, all the payment is through prostitution.
“Coming to Nigeria now with only 200,000 naira that I squeezed to save, I don’t want to see my mother till I have enough,” Ms Omole narrated.
When asked why would she be angry to the extent of avoiding meeting her son upon her return to Nigeria, she burst into tears, weeping bitterly.
‘My Experience Was Horrific’
In another case, Ms Blessing Muhammad, who believed that her mother did her a great favour for spurring her to embark on the journey to Europe, said every mother will be happy when her child is about to travel to greener pastures.
“My mum bought clothes and make-over stuff for me when I was travelling,” she narrated.
“A popular big sister at Akungba approached my mother and convinced that she would help me travel to Europe with the promise that I will be doing my hairdressing work or I can be doing housemaid to be able to raise money and support my mother and siblings.
“My mother has not been feeling well and she needs support; I was second to the last born in the family. My elder siblings cannot be supportive because of their economic status.
“My journey through the desert was horrific; I was to be buried, the grave had been dug and just as I was about to be thrown into the grave, I miraculously showed signs of life as I was told, I came back to life. I left Nigeria on the 3rd of January, 2016 and the cold was at its peak at the time; I died and resurrected; that was what I can say
“What I experienced in the desert was a child’s play compared to the inhuman treatment meted out to me by my burga (trafficker) who happens to be from my town and same street.
“Despite the fact that I fell ill as a result of the harsh weather in the desert, my trafficker forced me to be ‘dis-virgined’ on the day I entered Libya by fixing me up with a client.
“To God, I used my body (prostitution) to pay my trafficker a total sum of 4.5 million naira.
“The worst part of my experience was the mental instability I found myself in; this was due to various trauma I passed through in the hands of my trafficker.
“My trafficker took nine of us out of Akungba; presently I am the only one returning due to my health. Though I thank God that I am recuperating fast but I have to return to Nigeria in order not to relapse.
“Any time I shout out of anxiety or anger, the mental illness will resurface. “I cannot ask my enemies to embark on any journey out Nigeria to seek for any non-existing job at all.
“Our people are our enemies; they deceive us to leave Nigeria,” Ms Blessing Muhammed bitterly recounted.
Other agencies at the reception of the returnees included the Nigerian Immigration Service, Federal Ministry of Health, NAPTIP, FAAN, and the Nigeria Police Force.
Giving a breakdown of the figures, he said the Nigerians comprise 80 adult females, 67 adult males 11 children, and two infants.
The NEMA boss called on Nigerians to adopt a positive attitude towards life challenges, warning youths, who may think there is greener pastures elsewhere, against irregular migration.
“It is normal in life to struggle for better and improved livelihoods but in the struggle, we must avoid endangering our lives,” he said.
“I wish to state that there is nowhere in the world that its citizens will not have to strive in attaining good life within the limited resources available in that country.
“Nigeria is well endowed, far more than most countries that young Nigerians are travelling to in seeking greener pastures that are no longer there. What we need to do is for all of us to look inward and avail ourselves of the countless opportunities in Nigeria.
“The present government has been providing an enabling environment for us to thrive and will continue to cooperate with development partners in creating level playing grounds for all Nigerians in the country.”
Italian police said Saturday they had arrested an Egyptian suspected of trafficking migrants across the Mediterranean during a trip that left seven people dead from hypothermia.
The suspect is accused of organising the dangerous crossing by a boat carrying 287 people from Libya. Most were suffering from the cold when they were rescued by the coast guard on January 25.
Police in the Sicilian city of Agrigento said in a statement that the ordeal on the overcrowded, 16-metre boat ended “with the death, by hypothermia, of seven Bangladeshi citizens, due to the inhumane conditions of the voyage.”
The 38-year-old suspect, who was identified through witness testimony of survivors, had already been sentenced for a 2011 people smuggling crime in Sicily, police said, without providing further detail.
Winter weather has not been a deterrent for migrants crossing the Mediterranean this year despite freezing temperatures and rough seas.
So far this year, some 10,570 migrants have reached Europe by sea, out of a total of 11,986, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Some 229 have died or gone missing in the attempt to reach the continent.
Libya found itself with two prime ministers Thursday after its parliament named a rival to replace the existing unity government’s chief Abdulhamid Dbeibah, threatening a new power struggle in the war-torn nation.
The House of Representatives, based in Libya’s east, “unanimously approved Fathi Bashagha to head the government,” the parliament’s spokesman Abdullah Bliheg said in a tweet.
The move threatened to deepen the struggle for control between the assembly and the Tripoli-based administration of Dbeibah, while experts warned of potential violence in the capital in western Libya.
It came hours after Libyan media carried unconfirmed reports that Dbeibah’s car was targeted by gunfire overnight, without specifying whether he was inside the vehicle at the time.
The construction tycoon, appointed a year ago as part of United Nations-led peace efforts, has vowed only to hand power to a government that emerges from a democratic vote.
His administration had a mandate to lead the country to elections last December 24, but the polls were cancelled amid bitter divisions over their legal basis and the candidacies of several controversial figures.
Parliament speaker Aguila Saleh, who like Dbeibah and Bashagha had been a presidential candidate, has since spearheaded efforts to replace the unity government.
The assembly had considered seven candidates to lead the administration. But shortly before Thursday’s confirmation vote, Saleh had announced that Bashagha’s only remaining challenger, former interior ministry official Khaled al-Bibass, had withdrawn from the race.
The live television feed cut just before the vote took place.
Experts warned that Thursday’s vote threatens a repeat of a 2014 schism which saw two parallel governments emerge.
“Libya has two prime ministers. Again. Groundhog Day,” Anas El Gomati of Libyan think tank the Sadeq Institute wrote in a tweet.
In a televised address on Tuesday, Dbeibah had vowed he would “accept no new transitional phase or parallel authority” and declared he would only hand over power to an elected government.
Bashagha and Dbeibah, both from the powerful port city of Misrata, have the support of rival armed groups in the Libyan capital and the surroundings.
“Dbeibah is refusing to step down, so there is potential for some kind of conflict in Tripoli and beyond, and it could get ugly really fast,” Amanda Kadlec, a former member of the UN Panel of Experts on Libya, told AFP.
“Bashagha and Dbeibah both have deep connections across western Libya, and the militias will move with whomever they see as having power.
“The Tripoli militias might also take a wait-and-see approach,” she added. “Alliance-hopping is part of the playbook in Libya.”
The UN, western powers and even some members of parliament have called for Dbeibah to stay in his role until elections, for which a new date has not yet been set.
Peter Millett, a former UK ambassador to Libya, said the main division now was “between the Libyan people — who want elections — and the political elite, who don’t.”
“The motivation of many MPs is to hang on to jobs and privileges rather than allow for a smooth process leading to elections,” he told AFP.
“This seems like a decision taken to deprive the people of the right to vote by delaying elections even further and causing potential instability in Tripoli.”
The bodies of 28 migrants have washed up on Libya’s western coast after their boat sunk, a security official said Sunday, the latest tragedy on the world’s deadliest migration route.
“Libyan Red Crescent teams recovered 28 bodies of dead migrants and found three survivors at two different sites on the beaches of Al-Alous,” some 90 kilometres (55 miles) from Tripoli, the source said.
“The bodies’ advanced state of decomposition indicates that the shipwreck happened several days ago,” he said, adding the toll could rise in the coming hours.
Images published by Libyan media outlets showed corpses lined up along the shore then placed in body bags.
Libya, wracked by a decade of conflict and lawlessness, has become a key departure point for African and Asian migrants making desperate attempts to reach Europe.
Migrants often endure horrific conditions in Libya before embarking northwards on overcrowded, often unseaworthy vessels that frequently sink or get into trouble.
The latest tragedy comes just days after 160 migrants died within a week in similar incidents, bringing the total number of lives lost this year to 1,500, according to the International Organization for Migration.
The IOM says more than 30,000 migrants have been intercepted in the same period and returned to Libya.
The European Union has cooperated closely with the Libyan Coast Guard to cut numbers of migrants arriving on European shores.
On their return, many face further horrific abuses in detention centres.
Since the times of dictator Moamer Kadhafi, Libyan authorities have had a budget earmarked to provide free textbooks to each student at the start of the school year in September.
However many of this year’s books have yet to be delivered, forcing students to make full photocopies from just a handful of books per class.
Many pupils had still not been supplied with their books by mid-December.
“I’ve got three children in primary school and copying each book for several classes costs us hundreds of dinars,” a major expense for cash-strapped Libyans, said Zakiya Abdelsamad, a secretary at a medical clinic in Tripoli.
Several stationary and office supplies shops have profited from the situation, selling overpriced copies of the books.
Before Megarief was arrested, the education ministry had blamed the delay on the complex process of reunifying Libya’s curriculum after a key east-west schism in 2014 produced different versions.
Eastern and western camps signed a landmark ceasefire in October 2020 and have been working to align school curricula across the country.
The ministry has also posted the books on its website in PDF format.
The minister’s arrest comes just four days ahead of presidential elections meant to cap a transition phase, but widely expected to be delayed.
The unsuccessful applicants were given 48 hours to appeal the decision in court.
But on Thursday morning a “group of outlaws” launched an “odious” attack on the court in the southern town of Sebha forcing it to shut — just hours before Seif al-Islam had been due to appeal, the government said in a statement.
It has ordered the interior and justice ministries to open an investigation into the attack, said Khaled al-Zaydi, the lawyer for Seif al-Islam.
The attackers forced all staff from the court building “at gunpoint” hours before the appeal hearing, said Khaled al-Zaydi, Seif al-Islam’s lawyer.
“This act is an obstacle to the electoral process,” he said in a video broadcast on Libyan media.
In the case of Seif al-Islam, the commission had pointed to articles of the electoral law stipulating that candidates “must not have been sentenced for a dishonourable crime” and must present a clean criminal record.
The final list of candidates is due to be published by early December, once verifications and appeals are completed.
Other hopefuls still in the running include eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar, interim premier Abdulhamid Dbeibah, and former interior minister Fathi Bashagha.
Both presidential and legislative polls had been slated for December 24, but in early October parliament split the dates of the votes, postponing the legislative elections until January.
The path to the ballot box has been lined with disputes over the constitutional basis for the polls and the powers to be given to whoever wins.
Libya’s electoral commission said Tuesday that 98 candidates, including two women, had registered to run in a presidential election scheduled for December.
“The candidate registration platform has received the papers of 98 candidates who met the conditions,” the head of the electoral commission, Imad al-Sayeh, told a Tripoli press conference.
Among the most notable hopefuls are Seif al-Islam Kadhafi, the son of slain dictator Moamer Kadhafi, and Khalifa Haftar, leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army in control of the country’s east and parts of the south.
Also in the running are former interior minister Fathi Bashagha and Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah of the interim, UN-brokered Government of National Unity.
Only two women have stepped forward as candidates: Laila Ben Khalifa, 46, the president and founder of the National Movement party, and Hunayda al-Mahdi, a researcher in the social sciences.
The polls come as the UN seeks to end a decade of violence that has rocked the oil-rich nation since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed Kadhafi in 2011.
The final candidates list will be published within 12 days, once verifications and appeals are completed, said Sayeh, a day after the deadline for submitting applications.
The commission “will pass on the papers to the prosecutor general, the department of passports and nationality and to the General Intelligence” to ensure candidates comply with the electoral law.
Registration for Libya’s first-ever direct presidential poll on December 24 took place in three commission offices, in Tripoli in the west, Benghazi in the east and Sebha in the south.
More than 2.8 million of Libya’s seven million people are registered to vote.
The head of the electoral commission said that so far “more than 1.7 million voters have received their (voting) cards”.