TRIPOLI, The head of the anti-illegal immigration department of the Libyan ministry of the interior, Mohamed Beshr, revealed Friday that 1.5 million migrants are outside the official immigration shelters.

"There are 1.5 million illegal immigrants in Libya seeking to migrate to Europe through the Mediterranean. They are outside the shelters and have been working and living in Libya for several months, and even years, waiting for their turn to cross to Europe. We do not know where they are and they are not under our control," Beshr told Xinhua.

"International organizations say 700,000 illegal migrants are preparing to migrate to Europe. From our point of view, the statistics are not accurate at all, because they did not come through a clear and confirmed database, and therefore the figures we have are the closest to reality," Beshr said.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that 700,000 illegal migrants are in a number of Libyan cities, waiting for crossing the Mediterranean towards Europe.

"The decisions made over the past few months are important, including closing 25 immigration housing centres across Libya and distributing all fixed assets and staff to other main centres and some security departments and services," Beshr said when asked about the reasons for closing 25 out of 51 immigrant shelters in Libya.

"When almost half of the shelters were closed, it was due to technical and organizational reasons," he said. "We focus on the quality of the centres' living and accommodation services. Therefore, the decision was necessary to organize the work and to allocate centres ready to accommodate immigrants in an orderly and smooth manner," he said.

He said that the number of migrants currently in the shelters is more than 8,000, confirming that they continue to be deported voluntarily within the voluntary return program of the IOM.

The Interior Ministry Wednesday said it has an integrated plan to address illegal migration "through land and sea."

"The ministry is implementing an integrated plan involving all security services to confront illegal migration through sea and land, in order to reduce the immigrants' flows," Mohamed Al-Marhani, an official with the anti-illegal immigration department of the Interior Ministry told Xinhua.

"Our plan is based primarily on activating desert patrols, especially in the south and south-west of the country, from which most immigrants infiltrated illegally through borders with neighbouring countries," Al-Marhani added.

Thousands of illegal migrants choose to cross the Mediterranean towards European shores from Libya due to the state of chaos in the country following the 2011 uprising.

According to official figures from the Libyan anti-illegal immigration department, more than 4,000 migrants were rescued off the Libyan coast during the first quarter of the year.

"We thank all the international organizations for their efforts. But, I think the support is not at the required level. The migrants are human beings like us, who have needs that are not measured by specific working or official hours. A decent life for them does not mean only blankets and food. They suffer from crowdedness and transmitted diseases. All these are challenges that require a greater stand by the international community with Libya, which despite its circumstances is trying to provide the best possible services to illegal immigrants," Beshr explained.

Migrants living in Libyan shelters complain about lack of attention from international organizations, demanding that they are transferred from Libya to European countries as refugees.

The migrants show resentment at overcrowded shelters and a demand for better health and food services.

Source: Nam News Network