UN says 235,000 migrants ready to flee Libya for Italy
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UN says 235,000 migrants ready to flee Libya for Italy

Country in turmoil since 2011 civil war; lists of people waiting for chance to leave via dangerous Mediterranean crossing

Italian Coast Guard ship Bruno Gregoretti, carrying survivors of the boat that overturned off the coasts of Libya Saturday, arrives at Catania Harbor, Italy, Monday, April 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Carmelo Imbesi)
Italian Coast Guard ship Bruno Gregoretti, carrying survivors of the boat that overturned off the coasts of Libya Saturday, arrives at Catania Harbor, Italy, Monday, April 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Carmelo Imbesi)

Some 235,000 migrants in Libya are ready to make the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to Italy as soon as the opportunity arises, UN envoy Martin Kobler said in an interview published Thursday.

According to Italy’s interior ministry, nearly 128,400 migrants have arrived via the Mediterranean since the start of the year — which is a five percent jump over the same period in 2015.

“We have on our lists 235,000 migrants who are just waiting for a good opportunity to depart for Italy, and they will do it,” Kobler told Italian daily La Stampa.

“Reinforcing security is the most important issue at the moment. If we have a strong and unified army… then the dangers of terrorism and human trafficking will cease,” he added.

Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord based in Tripoli is struggling to assert its authority and has been facing staunch resistance from a rival administration based in the country’s remote east.

Fighting for control of the nation’s oil assets has renewed fears of a civil war in Libya, which plunged into chaos after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Libya’s 1,770 kilometers (1,100 miles) of coastline have become a popular staging point for migrants seeking to reach Europe.

Kobler also said the offensive to capture key oil ports by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who supports the rival administration in the country’s east, was “very worrying.”

“Libya is in need of dialogue, stability and unity. I have contacted general Haftar and I am ready to meet him in order to find a solution allowing for the creation of a single army,” he added.

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