TRIPOLI, Libya – A Libyan Cabinet minister has threatened to help illegal migrants reach Europe if the European Union does not do more to help his country deal with a flood of migrants using Libya as a transit point.
Interior Minister Saleh Maziq said EU assistance would enable his North African nation stop illegal migrants arriving in Libya from sub-Saharan African nations en route to Europe.
Addressing a news conference late Saturday, the minister blamed the presence of illegal migrants in his country for a rise in crime, the spread of illegal drugs and diseases. He did not elaborate. He also appealed to Libya's southern neighbors to help it stop the flood of migrants.
Chaos in Libya since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi has turned the country into a prime springboard for tens of thousands of migrants trying to reach Europe in rickety, crowded boats.
With the police and the military in disarray, human smuggling has become an organized industry in which Libya's militias have gotten involved, activists and police say.
Cities along Libya's 1,600-kilometer (1,000-mile), largely unpatrolled Mediterranean coastline have become collection points where Africans mass, scrounging up the cash for a boat to take them the roughly 300 kilometers (200 miles) to Malta or Lampedusa.
The world, said Maziq, "must actually take a serious stand with actions and not just words."