TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya will scale back its efforts to stem the flow of illegal migrants from Africa to Europe unless the European Union meets its demands for additional funding, a government minister said on Monday.
Oil exporter Libya intercepts thousands of sub-Saharan Africans each year crossing its territory on their way to Europe, but says it is not fair that it has to shoulder the burden of defending the EU’s borders.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, on a visit to Italy in August, demanded that the EU pay Libya 5 billion euros ($6.6 billion) a year to help it fight illegal immigration.
“If there is no money, there will be no security, there will be no guards (on the borders),” Abdalfatah Yunes Elabedi, Libya’s public security minister, told reporters at a meeting of north African and southern European interior ministers.
“We thought the situation would not reach this point because it would be a disaster for the Europeans.
“Either they (the EU) do what they have to do, in which case we will be grateful to them, or they will bear responsibility for their decision,” he said at the meeting in Tripoli.
The minister said that, as part of the funding row, Libya had already suspended some development projects in sub-Saharan Africa that were aimed at discouraging people from leaving home and trying to reach Europe.
Reporting by Salah Sarrar; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Kevin Liffey