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Austria says migrants should not be returned to Libya

The Address | Benghazi – Libya

VIENNA – Austria’s President, Alexander Van der Bellen, told reports on Monday that  migrants should not be returned to Libya.

“The situation in the [migrant] camps is, to put it mildly,far from satisfactory,” said Van der Bellen who was speaking in a joint press conference with Head of Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez Al-Sarraj.

“My personal opinion is that under these circumstances, refugees shouldn’t be sent there at the moment,” Van der Bellen added.

For his part, Al-Sarraj said the situation in the camps is “not ideal” due to many problems.

“Of course the situation in the camps is not ideal, there are many problems, many challenges,” Sarraj said, “But we must bear in mind the number of illegal migrants in Libya – more than 800,000 in the whole country. Not more than 20,000 of them are in the camps,” he said.

“I wish we had a comprehensive approach to dealing with this problem. We’re talking about development for the countries of origin, about them taking back their citizens,” Al-Sarraj added.

After his meeting with Van der Bellen, Al-Sarraj held a meeting with Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, followed by another joint press conference.

Kurz said that Austria had a “fundamental interest” in Libya’s security and development and underlined the importance of fighting both ISIS terrorists and people traffickers.

He expressed his “deep gratitude” to the Libyan coastguard for their work in rescuing migrants.

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