Nepalese U.N. Troops in Libya to Protect UNHCR
U.N. troops from Nepal have arrived in Libya to guard refugee agency staff.
The Gurkha soldiers, who do not have peacekeeper status and therefore do not have a mandate to get involved in the broader Libyan conflict, are there solely to protect UNHCR operations.
One hundred troops will be deployed, with 59 already in the country and another 41 waiting in Tunisia to join them. The Nepalese arrive at a time when there is a complex and worsening security situation, with competing Libyan factions in open conflict.
The Gurkhas are expected to guard a secure center which UNHCR is in negotiations to open in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The U.N. refugee agency hopes to finalize the center and use it to process evacuations of the most vulnerable refugees to more secure countries in the region, likely Niger.
Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants have been caught up in fighting between rival militias in the port city of Sabratha to the west of Tripoli. The UNHCR says there are more than 20,000 migrants in Sabratha in dire conditions but it is unclear how many of them would qualify for protection or evacuation even if such a facility existed.
The U.N.’s migration and refugee agencies are under pressure from the E.U. to improve conditions for migrants in Libya despite the chaotic operating environment. Italy has been accused of co-opting militias involved in people smuggling in order to reduce the number of sea crossings. Foreign interference is blamed by Libya analysts for sparking clashes in Sabratha.
E.U. Leaders Try to Revive Flagging Africa Trust Fund
The E.U. will use two days of meetings to try to reboot its Africa Trust Fund. The multibillion fund meant to reward countries for cutting migration has little actual cash in it.
The Brussels meetings starting on October 19 will see leaders announce “sufficient and targeted funding” for migration projects in Africa and elsewhere, diplomats told Reuters.
While member states have been willing in theory to finance schemes the E.U. hopes will reduce migration, “there is no trust in the Africa Trust Fund,” according to one diplomat.
The trust fund is meant to finance economic development schemes in African countries where migrants originate or where they transit. In reality very little money has been spent on the ground.
One senior E.U. diplomat told Reuters that the fund has a shortfall running to the “high tens of millions” of dollars. “If the situation is not fixed quickly, we might find ourselves in a position that we cannot carry out our policies,” the diplomat said.
Sources said a “big pot of money” was needed to prevent the whole migration framework from collapsing.
Far Right in Austria Demands Control of Interior Ministry
Austria’s far right will demand the interior ministry in return for supporting a coalition. The Freedom Party, which took 26 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election, is in coalition talks with the People’s Party.
Immigration dominated the Austrian election, where Sebastian Kurz led the People’s Party to the biggest share of the vote. The 31-year-old, who has tapped fear of migrants to boost his support, is expected to become chancellor.
A Kurz-led government with a far-right interior minister could see draconian anti-refugee and migrant policies passed by Austria. The second largest party, the Social Democrats, is not expected to enter a coalition with Kurz.
The People’s Party and the Freedom Party both promised to curb immigration and slash benefits for asylum seekers. The latter party only recently stopped calling for Austria to leave the E.U. and has historical links to Nazism.
Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache said, “We won’t go down on our knees for anyone. At 26 percent we naturally aim to implement our (FPO) policies in government.”
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