A notorious human trafficker targeted by UN sanctions was part of an official Libyan delegation, which visited Italy two years ago, an Italian newspaper reported on Friday.
Catholic daily Avvenire said its findings back up long-standing, unconfirmed allegations that Italy struck deals with criminals as part of efforts to stem migrant inflows from Libya.
Offering photo evidence, the newspaper said Abd al Rahman al-Milad, also known as “Bija,” took part in a May 2017 conference that Italian authorities hosted at a migrant reception centre in Mineo, Sicily.
A couple of months later, then-interior minister Marco Minniti managed to sharply reduce migrant landings through cooperation deals with Libya, under terms that were never fully revealed.
In Sept. 2017, Emma Bonino, a former Italian minister and EU commissioner, charged that Italy had agreed “directly or indirectly” to pay “the people, who were traffickers until yesterday”.
Al-Milad heads the coast guard in Zawiya, a well-known Libyan migrant port of departure.
But is he is also a warlord involved in serious human rights abuses.
According to the UN Security Council, he and his men sink “migrant boats using firearms” and take migrants to a camp where they “are reportedly held in brutal conditions and subjected to beatings”.
Matteo Villa, an expert at the ISPI think tank, tweeted that deals between Italy and Libyan militia led to a “close to 80 per cent” reduction in migrant departures from Libya, starting from July 2017.
Avvenire’s report “is further confirmation that, in order to get short-term ‘gains’ in terms of lower migrant arrivals, Italy was okay (cooperating) with the most brutal actors,” he added.
(Edited by Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim)
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