Libya starts mass deportation of migrants

Wed 16 Jan 2008, 14:47 GMT

TRIPOLI, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Libya said on Wednesday it had started
deporting illegal immigrants, most from poor African states who were
trying to reach Europe.

"The authorities decided to start immediately the operation of
gathering all foreigners living illegally in Libya and deporting
them," the government said in a statement carried by the official
news agency Jana.

Tripoli is under pressure at home to tackle the problem of illegal
immigrants whom officials and locals blame for spreading insecurity
and taking jobs from unemployed Libyan youths.

Italy and other European Union states want Libya to stem the flow of
illegal migrants to the EU bloc.

"It was decided to start immediately the operations of gathering and
deporting all illegal migrants without exception," the Libyan
statement added.

Libyan officials estimate that illegal immigrants number up to two
million, most of them from poor sub-Saharan states.

The government said housing authorities were instructed to destroy
makeshift homes and other shelters where most illegal immigrants live
and hide from police raids on the outskirts of Tripoli and other
Mediterranean coastal cities.

(Writing by Lamine Ghanmi; Editing by Janet Lawrence)