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TOPIC: libya

This Happened

This Happened—December 21: An Attack In The Skies Over Scotland

Pan Am Flight 103 was heading from London to New York City. Shortly after takeoff, a bomb that had been planted onboard detonated, causing an explosion while the plane was in flight over Scotland.

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How Rich Western Countries Pay To Send Refugees Away

Western countries are shipping refugees to poorer nations in exchange for cash.

The UK government was due to begin its first deportation flight to remove asylum-seekers to the East African country of Rwanda on June 14, 2022, exactly two months after signing the UK-Rwanda agreement. The asylum-seekers were from several war-torn and politically unstable countries, including Syria, Sudan and Iran.

Each year, thousands of people – many fleeing repressive governments or poverty – attempt to cross the English Channel in fragile boats in the hope of starting a new life in the UK.

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Gaddafi And Marcos Jr., When A Dictator’s Son Runs For President

Over the past few weeks, the offspring of two of the 20th centuries most ruthless strongmen have announced they'd like to become the (democratically elected) leaders of Libya and the Philippines.


PARIS — The son of the brutal Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi announced this week he is running for president, which follows a similar headline last month from Ferdinand Marcos Jr. What does this say about the state of democracy?

It was about a half-century ago that two of the most brutal dictatorships of the modern era began.

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Putin's Shadow Army: Russian Mercenaries Enter African Wars

BERLIN — It was late May, as 10,000 spectators arrived at Barthélemy Boganda Stadium in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, for a special film premiere. There was a red carpet for the VIPs arriving for the film "Tourist" — a feature that glorifies the use of Russian mercenaries, who heroically defend the local population from murderous rebels in a fictional African conflict.

According to the Russian media, the propaganda film was financed by Yevgeny Prigozhin. The Kremlin-linked oligarch is considered the mastermind behind Russia's best-known mercenary outfit, the Wagner group. But their real activities in the Central African Republic contradict the movie script.

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Fabio Albanese

The Struggle To Track Shifting Mediterranean Migrant Routes

A top prosecutor in Sicily informed the UN in a recent report that so-called 'phantom landings' — vessels that reach the island undetected — are on the rise.

AGRIGENTO — Together with the island of Lampedusa, Agrigento, a city and province on Sicily's Southern coast, is where the bulk of Mediterranean migrants have arrived in the past year.

Some are rescued in the middle of the sea en route from Libya and brought to Agrigento by NGOs and military ships. Others come from Tunisia on wooden boats: These are the so-called "autonomous landings," which can refer to vessels making it to port on their own, or those that are "hooked" and reeled in by either the Coast Guard or anti-smuggling ships from Italy's Financial Crimes division.

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Christian Putsch

Lagos Postcard: When EU Pushes Migrants To Go Back Home

Nigerian painter Isaac sold everything and left Lagos, in the hope to make it to Germany. After barely surviving in Libya, he gave up and went back.

LAGOS — In the midst of a heavy night, in the spotlight of the cargo airport of Lagos, a Nigerian politician gives a blazing speech. "You should be grateful," she says to the 160 migrants who have just gotten off a Libyan plane. "Some of you came back with only one leg. Others with only one eye. But you have everything you need to live with God's help. Never forget: Hope comes on quiet feet."

Isaac is sitting on the edge of the hangar and is too tired to tune into this quiet hope. He is lean, about 15 kilograms lighter than before leaving Nigeria for Europe last year. In the morning, before boarding the plane back to his home-country, the 29-year-old was in the Libyan port town of Zuwarah, void of any illusion. Then came the return flight with the help of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) — over the route that almost killed him 14 months earlier overland. Too much to tune into an ode to life.

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Eric de Lavarène

Libya Revisited: Young People Nudge Benghazi Back To Life

BENGHAZI — They call it the "Café of the Displaced," and it's always full. "It's because my customers followed me here," says Ahmed, a smile on his face as he pours a clever blend of coffee, cream, cocoa powder and sugar.

Everybody's known Ahmed for years. And they know his story, which is also the story of Benghazi — from war and pain to reconstruction. To resurrection.

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Marco Bresolin

In Ivory Coast, Stars Campaign To Keep People From Emigrating

ABIDJAN — Jumping and dancing to the rhythm of the popular urban music zouglou, they snap pictures on their smartphones of their idols performing onstage. Always smiling and never sitting still, Ivory Coast's millennials have been nicknamed the "génération pressée pressée," the generation that is always in a rush.

Young Ivorians are dynamic and curious, and restless to leave their home country to explore a world they have so far only seen on TV. On a Sunday in late November, a free concert in Abidjan's sports stadium attracted many spectators. The country's largest city and financial capital hosted a show featuring some of the most popular Ivorian stars, including the band Magic System and the Ivorian soccer legend Didier Drogba. They all came together to send one message to their young fans, many of them eager to make the illegal journey across the Sahara and the Mediterranean to a better life in Europe: Don't go.

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Giacomo Tognini

Algeria To Sardinia, A New Migrant Route To Europe

CAGLIARI — Just over 280 kilometers (174 miles) of Mediterranean water separates the Algerian port city of Annaba from the Sulcis on the southwest coast of the Italian island of Sardinia. As Italy continues to crack down on trafficking routes linking Libya to its other major island, Sicily, attention is shifting to new routes. Algiers-based daily El Watan reports that the Sardinian regional government is worried about an uptick in arrivals on the island, and has vowed to put an end to illegal immigration from Algeria. A new proposal includes plans to convert a former prison into a detention center.

Unlike refugees arriving from Syria and other war zones, migrants from Algeria cannot seek asylum in Italy and must leave within seven days of receiving an expulsion notice from Italian authorities. According to Sardinian newspaper La Nuova Sardegna, some 1,000 Algerians enter Sardinia illegally every year, with the number of arrivals already more than 1,200 for 2017.

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Niccolò Zancan

The Arab Spring Didn't Change My Life, A New Tunisian Exodus To Italy

SFAX — Plastic bags litter the fields that separate the highway from the Mediterranean Sea. Tunisian fishermen sail their boats in the Gulf of Gabes, between the cities of Sfax and Zarzis — and just 120 kilometers from the Italian island of Lampedusa. Indeed, recently the fishermen's haul has begun to include migrants picked up from these shores, with 136 intercepted by the Italian government in one recent night.

That boat had almost reached the port of Porto Empedocle in southern Sicily, but the migrants were waiting in the dark to safely disembark and evade authorities. Their reasons became clear once they were processed at the local refugee hotspot, where all the migrants were identified as Tunisian nationals from the Sfax area. Italy and Tunisia have a repatriation agreement, and any Tunisian caught entering the country illegally is subject to deportation. Thirty of those 136 have already been given notice to leave the country within six days, but many of them are intent on continuing northward toward France.

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Maryline Dumas

Saving Sirte, Libyan City Returns To Life After Fall Of ISIS

SIRTE — If it were theater, it would be bad theater. Too incongruous, too unreal. The stage — buildings in ruins all along the boulevard — just doesn't fit the happiness on the people's faces. Some are busy decorating their cars with ribbons for a wedding. Others are drinking coffee or shopping. The cars are driving on the streets as if nothing had happened. And yet, 10 months ago, Sirte was a dead city.

That was when, after one year under ISIS domination and seven months of war, Muammar Gaddafi's former stronghold was liberated. Emptied of terrorists, as well as of its inhabitants. And destroyed.

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Migrant Lives
Maryline Dumas

Migrants' Many Shades Of Death Along The Tunisian Coast

In the south of Tunisia, near the Libyan border, an ancient dump serves as a cemetery for immigrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean illegally. But the living remain undeterred.

ZARZIS — "May God forgive them," murmurs Chamseddine Marzoug. Both corpses, inside mortuary body bags, are covered over with sand with a backhoe. Through the surrounding trash that has accumulated, Marzoug looks some signpost to mark the piece of land. He says he would want something better than a broken piece of black pipe to mark his own grave. The two buried men underwent an autopsy, which is quite rare — maybe one day they will once again be given their names …

The former Zarzis dump serves as a cemetery for migrants who died trying to cross the Mediterranean. In the 2000s, the bodies of migrants were welcomed in a Muslim cemetery in the southern Tunisian town near the Libyan border. This is still the case for corpses found a bit further south towards Ben Guerdan, in the cemetery of El Ketf. "But in Zarzis, people said it was not good to bury strangers with Muslims," said Marzoug. "There are only 5 to 7 places left in this cemetery where the conditions are not respectful for the dead."

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