Despite the significant progress made in Libya since the 2011 revolution, the security and management of national borders remains a key challenge for governmental authorities.
Issues that need to be addressed include agreeing on a vision and a multi-year development strategy, increased inter-agency coordination and cooperation, operational ineffectiveness, lack of governmental presence and poor infrastructure in the border areas and particularly in the remote south, and insufficient cross-border cooperation with neighboring countries. To overcome this, sustained and coordinated political commitment and efforts at all levels, as well as continued international support and assistance, are required.
Libya is a very large country with a reasonably small population of around 6.5 million inhabitants. It has approximately 4,300 km of land borders and 1,800 km of sea borders. The presence of state actors at the national borders varies according to the region in Libya and the level of security and control from the Libyan central government. The region in the south of Libya has been declared a military zone since December 2012 and is therefore nominally controlled by Libya’s military forces.
Having recognized the urgent need for action, coordination and political decision-making, then-Prime Minister Zeidan established the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Border Affairs in June 2013, with representation from key entities having responsibilities for this domain. The Committee is actively engaged in developing a strategy for an integrated border management system and a long-term implementation plan, in parallel with various state efforts to articulate and address the immediate pressing needs.
In accordance with Security Council Resolution 2144 (2014) mandating UNSMIL to support Libyan government efforts to strengthen border security, UNSMIL works closely with the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Libya (EUBAM Libya), which has been operational since June 2013. Together, they assist the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Border Affairs and relevant ministries and agencies in several areas of border security and management.
One area of assistance is capacity building and several courses have been carried out in cooperation with international partners during 2013 and 2014. The Navy Coast Guard in Tripoli has conducted Search and Rescue (SAR) training to be able to perform rescue operations in Libyan territorial waters. Customs officials have received specialized training and trained at several locations on the western border. Tripoli Airport Security Committee has carried out training of various staff on airport security and actions to mitigate threats from different weapons systems against civil aviation. The training on mitigating measures was carried out as train the trainers so as to enable further training of staff at other airports in Libya.
Another area of assistance is advice on enhancing regional cooperation and coordination on border security within the framework of Tripoli Action Plan which was adopted in 2012 by the Regional Ministerial Conference on Border Security. Currently the support is directed towards establishing a joint regional secretariat based in Tripoli to enhance information sharing.