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Private Military Ecology Blog
last updated 27-Mar-2016
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At Private Military Ecology we explore unfolding trends and alternative futures for the use and understanding of Private Military and/or Security Companies and services. Late in 2013, we opened shop at WordPress: --a nicer, cleaner and more elegant experience. At WordPress, we discuss the changing 21st century security environment in addition to private military and security issues. Private Military Ecology @Blogger, however, is our oldest blogging space and you might find many posts there not available here or at WordPress.

The fear of mass migration from Libya (and North Africa) into Europe

libya migration exodus

The administrations of Prime Minister David Cameron (U.K) and President Nicolas Sarkozy (France) wanted the protagonist role in Libya, and so France and the United Kingdom got the job to impose a so-called “no fly zone” on behalf of the fragmented NATO response to the Libyan crises. Off course the no-fly-zone mission keeps metamorphosing by the day and now also embeds regime change and the training of rebels (by the U.K. as of today, but France and Italy signaled their intention to participate in the training as well); the latter task effectively implying a third-party involvement in a civil war. Haven’t we learned about the risks attached not to establishing at the outset and clearly the extent and scope of foreign military interventions since Afghanistan and Iraq? The answer is probably no. Considering that Europe (Germany aside) is still in the initial stages of economic recovery after the global recession, the question remains: why the UK and France got involved in Libya in such a bold manner, particularly considering that they seem to broaden their parallel and some may say competing roles by the day?

Human rights violations? Yes, that’s part of the reason. A little about oil reserves within close proximity of Europe? OK, probably that is part of the reason too. Moreover, there are also psychological connotations attached to the behavior of PM Cameron and President Sarkozy. PM Cameron was parading the Middles East on a business mission (together with key British defense contractors) when the Libyan conflict erupted - 10 Downing Street responded with amateurish PR. What followed was the debacle of the failed SAS mission to contact the rebels in which SAS personnel and British ‘diplomats’ got captured by the rebels and their sophisticated laptops with passwords practically next to them were seized (whoops again!). Leaving aside the fact that probably a good Private Military Company with their seasoned Special Forces personnel could do a better job for half the price, the debacle forced a more personal approach. Thereafter, once PM Cameron had a taste of military leadership for the first time in his premiership, which probably feels like a drug, it seems he got hooked on it. He is now in a moral as well as a military mission to heal Libya –let’s forget for a moment the fact that there is no money to sustain a long military campaign and hardly any sympathy from the British taxpayers who will ultimately pay for it. As for President Sarkozy, there is a nearly-messianic desire to be seen as a world leader.

We have already a potent mix behind the military intervention in Libya. For the time being, it looks like PM Cameron and President Sarkozy found their Iraq. In the background, however, there is a powerful issue that might help to explain better (and continue to guide) the European response to the Libyan crisis: the fear and longer term implications of mass emigration of Libyans, and Northern Africans broadly, into Europe. In this light, it seems prudent to ground empirically the issue. The figures below have been recorded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR):

• Over 500,000 fled Libya during the first month of the conflict; about 80% of them foreign workers. There are no figures available on how many Libyans were outside the country when the crisis erupted, but these expatriates are unlikely to return to the country for a long time if ever.
• As of April 12, about 500,000 Libyans had left the country by land and crossed the border into adjacent countries; about 200,000 went to Egypt, 236,000 to Tunisia, 36,000 to Niger, 14,000 to Algeria, 6,200 to Chad, and 2,800 to Sudan.
• There has also been a continuous influx of Libyans into Italy (particularly Lampedusa Island) and Malta by sea. For example, between March 26 and April 12, 3,358 people reached Italy and over 1,100 Malta from Libya.
• The growing influx of Africans into Europe by sea is not restricted to Libyans. For example, on the weekend 9-10 April, three boats carrying 1,008 mainly Somalis and Nigerians arrived on Lampedusa Island (Italy). Between January 15 and February 15, about 5,200 Tunisians reached Italian territory; the media reports that the total since January is at least 25,000.
• Libyans want to go to Italy and Tunisians to France, their respective former colonial masters. Last week, Italy granted temporary permanent residence to about 25,000 Tunisians in Italy, so that they could transit freely within Europe and reach France. France denied entry to the first train carrying them in mass. If France eventually grants Tunisians entry, probably the French will be happy for them to reach the ferry terminal in the west coast so that they can head to the U.K.
• Europe is the prime destination word-wide for potential refugees. According to UNHCR, of about 358,800 asylum applications in the industrialized world in 2010, Europe received 269,900 of them (about 75%).

The reader can fill in the gaps and feel free to add other countries in transition such as Syria, Egypt, and perhaps Lebanon in the near future to the equation. The social and economic costs of a North African exodus into Europe would be astronomical and, we adventure to suggest, might have become the chief issue underpinning the growing role of Europe in the Libyan conflict. We do not need the next round of Wikileaks to make this point

22 April 2011





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