Ministerial Statement: Libya

Posted on April 19th, 2016 in Local News

Keith intervened in the Ministerial statement on Libya on Tuesday 19th April, 2016.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab) :May I welcome the progress that has been made but say that I am disappointed that more has not been offered to deal with the migration crisis? There has been an 80% increase in the number of crossings between Libya and Italy. This time last year, half a million people were waiting in Libya to get to Italy. As we know, the European Union is offering Turkey €3 billion to deal with the migration crisis and offering Libya nothing. What we need is permission to enter Libyan coastal waters in order to stop the people traffickers. Did the Foreign Secretary ask for that permission? When can we have that permission, so that we can deal robustly with people trafficking?

Mr Hammond: May I say to the right hon. Gentleman, whose question, I am sure, is well motivated, that he is approaching this in exactly the wrong way? We are not likely to get the buy-in we need if we, as a bunch of Europeans, go to Libya and say, “Here’s our priority agenda. What are you going to do about delivering it?” What we must do, and what I suggested to my European colleagues last night that we should do, is package the objectives that we want to achieve with the objectives that are priorities for the Libyans. That is the only way that Prime Minister Sarraj will be able to sell to the Libyan people a package that in any way questions Libya’s territorial sovereignty and that allows foreigners to operate in Libya’s waters. We must be acutely sensitive to the concerns in Libya about foreigners. I am in a rather strange position in that, on the one hand, I have one bunch of people in this House who are primarily concerned to ensure that we do not have any foreigners going into Libya, and, on the other, the right hon. Gentleman who is desperately keen to get some foreign naval forces into its territorial waters. The truth is that we must balance this very carefully and get a package that works for the Libyans as well as for the European agenda.