By Dominique Soguel / AFP
TRIPOLI: Libya has called its neighbors to a meeting on their porous common borders, which since the downfall of Moamar Qaddafi have become major conduits for smuggling, an official said on Thursday.
Regional security experts are penciled to meet in Tripoli on March 9 and 10, paving the way for a ministerial meeting which is tentatively scheduled from March 11 to 12, the foreign ministry official told AFP.
The conference will be a platform for “consultations on border controls to confront the security challenges of the present and the future, including illegal immigration,” Prime Minister Abdel Rahim Al-Kib said in comments published by his office Thursday.
“The interim government will join the ministerial conference on border security in Tripoli in the first half of March,” Kib said in what was a transcript of remarks he made earlier in the week.
Invited to the conference are senior officials of the defense and interior ministries of Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco and Sudan, along with security experts from each country.
Ambassadors from the affected countries convened at the foreign ministry in Tripoli on Thursday to hammer out the logistics and agenda.
The issue of providing security for the visiting delegations was repeatedly raised, an AFP reporter at the meeting said.
Libya shares borders with Tunisia and Algeria to the west and Egypt to the east; while the Sahara desert stretches across its southern frontiers with Niger, Chad and Sudan.
With its vast desert borders and lax monitoring policy, Libya has for years served as a destination and a transit country to European shores for hundreds of thousands of African immigrants.
“Libya is an integral part of its African, Arab and Mediterranean environment. We are ready to cooperate with everyone,” Kib said.
Meanwhile, a representative of the Toubu tribe visiting Tripoli said that his tribesmen have been doing their best to monitor the vast and porous desert borderland, which he described as a hub for smuggling and human trafficking.
Mohammed Senussi said Toubou and other tribes concentrated in the southeastern city of Kufra have been acting as informal border patrols since Qaddafi’s regime fell last year following a popular uprising and a Tripoli unit charged with that task fled.
“Libya’s borders are a red line,” Senussi said, adding that his tribe rejects any foreign interference despite a shared heritage with Toubu tribesmen in Chad and Niger.