Turkey uses immigration to the EU to seize Libyan ports
Turkey could negotiate a deal with the EU recognizing its military and commercial presence in Libya as fact. In return, an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Ankara has offered his assistance in controlling migration flows to the Mediterranean. “This is the only background that shows how Turkey has carried out rescue operations for migrants off the coast of Libya in the past. In January 2020, the naval frigate Gaziantep in Ankara intercepted one of the many ships trying to reach Italy.
The military recovered from the disaster and provided first aid. They were eventually returned to Tripoli. Ankara’s Defense Ministry itself reported on the rescue in the media and posted photos and videos of the operation on its website. The illegal defense — Libya is a dangerous place for the UN — has been tightened by the fact that it is carried out by NATO warships. However, this is not the only violation committed by Turkey. Gaziantep is so close to Tripoli that it escorted a cargo ship sailing from Mersin to southern Turkey, laden with weapons destined for the Tripoli government and supported by Erdogan and the international community. Also on May 2, Gaziantep assisted the Libyan coast guard in rescuing another 123 migrants 130 kilometers off the coast of Tripoli.
For months, the Turks had given the West a fait accompaniment: their near-constant frigate presence in the port of Misrata. “For Erdogan, the city-state in western Libya is a gateway to Africa,” analyst Mohamed Elarh told Il Foglio. News last summer was revived about a deal with the then-Tripoli government to grant concessions to the Turkish port of Misrata for the next 99 years. “In fact, this agreement has not been formalized and has not yet been signed. At least not now. The fact is, however, that plans and negotiations are underway to turn the city into a logistics hub for Turkey,” Elijah said.
The Albayrak Group, a major Turkish company that has signed similar agreements in Somalia and Guinea, has been trying for several months to reach an agreement with the Misrata authorities on a port concession, but also on strengthening the city’s international airport. Erdogan’s aim does not stop at Libya, where Turkish exports have grown by more than 220 percent in the past two months alone, but rather towards the Sahel and sub-Saharan Africa trade routes.
To do this, the Turkish president needs an agreement with Europe, including an immigration card. For about a year now, Ankara has been intensifying its efforts to train the Libyan coast guard to compete with the support of Italy, which is directly interested in controlling migration flows in the central Mediterranean and is an important sponsor of the Libyan coast guard. “It looks like the Turks want to control the taps of the migrants on a double front — a Tripoli-based diplomat speculates on paper — as, on the Balkan route, they are trying to do the same in Libya.”
In a brief interview with Radio France International on Tuesday, Mesut Haki Kazin, Erdogan’s foreign and security policy adviser, said Europe may or may not recognize Turkey’s military presence in Libya in return for its help in fighting human trafficking. “If Turkey doesn’t send troops, we will see a big conflict. How can we retire today? It would only be possible if others did the same,” said Kazin, who bet on one point: Rival Russia will never withdraw their mercenaries from Libya, and therefore Turkey will definitely not take the first step.
So Erdogan’s advisers made a proposal: to find a deal with the EU and face another fait accompaniment, something like an indecent proposal: “We don’t want to expand our military presence in Libya, I don’t need that. But now they can Turkey and the EU cooperate. We seek to support Frontex, the European Agency for External Border Security.” A similar hypothesis will be approved by several European countries, Kazin concludes: “Not only us, but also Italy and Malta” will support.