31 Jan – 6 Feb: Explosive Remnants of War destroyed while report suggests LNA linked groups are stopping Benghazi returnees

Feb 6, 2018 | International actors

On 1 February, UNSMIL said more than 200 tons of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) had been destroyed in Libya, with the support of the United Nations Mine Action Service and the governments of Denmark and South Korea. Another 200 tons of ERW is planned to be destroyed in the next phase of the initiative, which is supported by the French government.

On 1 February, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report suggesting armed groups with links to Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) are preventing at least 3,700 families from returning to Benghazi. The report states that since Haftar launched Operation Dignity to root out “terrorists” from the city in May 2014, an estimated 13,000 families have fled Benghazi. On 6 January, Haftar issued a statement denouncing the looting, destruction and appropriation of private property as well as the forced displacement of people from Benghazi, and instructed the LNA to facilitate the return of displaced people if ‘legally justified’. According to HRW, some families had been prevented from returning after receiving direct warnings from pro-LNA armed groups to stay away, or after pro-LNA armed groups attacked their relatives as a warning.

On 1 February, Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, launched the new Joint Operation Themis to assist Italy in its border control activities. Operation Themis will replace operation Triton, which was launched in 2014. Operation Themis will continue to include search and rescue components for migrants, as well as having an enhanced law enforcement focus to assist Italy in tracking down criminal activities, such as drug smuggling. Unlike Operation Triton, rescued migrants do not have to be brought to Italy, but rather the decision on disembarkation is left up to the country coordinating a particular rescue. The security component of Operation Themis will include collection of intelligence and other steps aimed at detecting foreign fighters and other terrorist threats at the external borders.