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Viewing cable 09TRIPOLI155, THE FROGMAN WHO COULDN'T SWIM: A COOPERATION CAUTIONARY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TRIPOLI155 2009-02-17 14:02 2011-02-01 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tripoli
Appears in these articles:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/wikileaks-files/libya-wikileaks/
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DE RUEHTRO #0155/01 0481431
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P R 171431Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4507
INFO RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 1410
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 0768
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 0903
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 0841
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1011
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0697
RHMFISS/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 5032
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000155 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  2/11/2019 
TAGS: MASS PTER KCOR PREL PGOV PREF LY IT
SUBJECT: THE FROGMAN WHO COULDN'T SWIM: A COOPERATION CAUTIONARY 
TALE 
 
TRIPOLI 00000155  001.2 OF 002   CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy - Tripoli, U.S. Dept of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 

1. (C) Summary:  At a recent meeting in Tripoli, the Italian ambassador said his government was alarmed by the sharp increase in the number of illegal migrants transiting Libya to Italy, and expressed frustration with difficulties Italy had encountered in trying to cooperate with the GOL on combatting illegal migration.  A lack of human capacity within the GOL and pervasive corruption and nepotism present serious obstacles to immigration enforcement, and Italian diplomats are skeptical that bilateral cooperation will improve in the near-term.  The recent case of a supposed Libyan security officer who was sent to Rome for specialized training in underwater explosives detection is a cautionary tale of the potential problems that can arise in bilateral cooperation in immigration and other areas.  End summary.  

ITALY ALARMED BY INCREASE IN NUMBER OF ILLEGAL MIGRANTS TRANSITING LIBYA  

2. (C) At a recent meeting hosted by the U.K. Ambassador to discuss counterterrorism engagement efforts, Italian Ambassador Francesco Trupiani expressed profound frustration with difficulties Italy had encountered in trying to cooperate with the GOL on counterterrorism and combatting illegal migration (Italy views the two issues as being linked).  Italy was alarmed by the marked increase in the number of illegal migrants that had arrived in Italy - primarily on the island of Lampedusa - from Libya.  By way of example, he offered that 1,300 Tunisian illegal migrants traveled from Libya to Italy in 2007.  In 2008, 5,900 Tunisians made landfall in Italy after departing from Libya's coast.  The number of migrants from Somalia - "a derelict state" - who had arrived in Italy increased from 5,110 in 2007 to 31,764 in 2008.  The number of Nigerians had increased threefold and featured a heavy contingent of prostitutes and narco-traffickers.  

LIBYA DELAYING COOPERATION TO LEVERAGE EU FRAMEWORK NEGOTIATIONS?  

3. (C) Noting that smuggling illegal migrants was highly profitable, that the GOL claimed to exercise tight control over travel within Libya, and that senior regime officials traditionally had a direct stake in highly lucrative enterprises (licit and otherwise), Trupiani said it was "implausible" that large numbers of illegal migrants had transited Libya without at least the tacit consent of GOL officials.  The substantial increase in the number of illegal migrants meant a corresponding increase in the amount of money involved.  He speculated that there could be a "logical nexus" between smuggling of illegal migrants, arms trafficking and movement of terrorists, and lamented that no one appeared to be holding the GOL accountable for its failure to more effectively address those inter-related problems.  Worse, the GOL appeared to be deliberately delaying engagement with Italy and other European partners to leverage negotiations for a Libya-EU Framework Agreement (EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner was in Tripoli February 9-10 for the latest round of negotiations).  

SITUATION IN SOUTHERN LIBYA WORRYING; LIBYA'S MINISTRY OF INTERIOR-EQUIVALENT INEFFECTIVE  

4. (C) Citing a recent visit to the remote southern city of Ghat (located in the southwest, near Libya's border with Algeria, Niger and Chad), Trupiani said the harsh desert environment and difficult economic situation (flour shortages during his visit meant there was no bread in the city, for example) were such that illegal migrants coming across Libya's southern borders had to hire local guides to navigate the desert.  Many of those guides were nomadic Tuareg, who were fiercely proud of the fact that they were not Arabs and who were not uniformly loyal to al-Qadhafi's regime.  Many had suffered discrimination at the hands of the Arab majority and a disproportionate number of them were poor.  The fact that an ethnically different, disaffected minority played such a prominent role in facilitating flows of illegal migrants, weapons and perhaps terrorists led Trupiani to draw two conclusions: 
1) some GOL elements were aware of and likely complicit in such activity, and; 
2) the Tuareg's collective situation was bad enough that they could become a considerable source of opposition to the regime.  

5. (C) Commenting on Italy's fitful efforts to engage Libya on counter-migration and counterterrorism efforts, Trupiani dismissed the General People's Committee for Public Security (MinInterior-equivalent) as feckless and said Italy's most effective interlocutor was the External Security Organization (ESO).  After five months of trying, he finally saw the  TRIPOLI 00000155  002.2 OF 002   Secretary of the GPC for Public Security in December, but was disappointed by his apparent disinterest in cooperating with Italy.  Referring to violent riots against the Italian Consulate in Benghazi in 2006 (occasioned by an Italian MP having worn a t-shirt depicting a controversial Danish cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad), he said the Italian Embassy had approached the GPC for Public Security for help, but it had been "useless".  By contrast, ESO Director Musa Kusa had personally traveled to Benghazi to help coordinate the overland evacuation of Italian nationals to Egypt.  

THE FROGMAN WHO COULDN'T SWIM  

6. (C) Trupiani was not optimistic that bilateral cooperation would improve in the near term. (Note: Our exchange with Trupiani pre-dated the early February visit to Libya by Italy's Minister of the Interior, Roberto Maroni, who signed an MOU to implement earlier agreements on counter-migration and counterterrorism cooperation (further details septel).  End note.)  He cited lack of human capacity and rampant corruption and nepotism as limited factors.  In November, the GOI had funded a Libyan to participate in a training program in Rome on underwater explosives detection and demolition administered by the Italian Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense.  After several days of classroom instruction, the candidates - it was a regional course and included students from several countries - were taken to the pool for their first practical session in the water.  The instructor directed the students to don their masks and regulators and enter the deep end of the pool; however, after several minutes, the Libyan student had still not entered the water.  The instructor, said Trupiani, walked up to the student, put his mask on, shoved the regulator in his mouth and pushed him into the pool.  The Libyan student sank like a stone, spit out his regulator and swallowed a great deal of water. After pulling him out and pumping the water out of lungs, the Italians learned that the Libyan student could not swim and was not a member of the Libyan GPC for Public Security or any GOL entity.  He was the cousin of an official tasked with selecting participants for training programs and had simply wanted a vacation in Rome.  

7. (C) Italian Minister of Interior Maroni immediately contacted Trupiani and asked that he demarche the GOL straight away to pre-empt any Libyan accusations of mistreatment of their man. Trupiani hand-delivered a note verbale protesting the fact that the GOL had sent an unqualified candidate to participate in a program paid for by the Italian government.  The next day, the Italian Embassy received a formal written reply in which the GOL frostily averred that it was the responsibility of the Italian governnment to ensure that candidates for its training programs were properly qualified, and that the Italians should have taught him how to swim.  

8. (C) Comment: While Italian-Libyan relations are burdened by considerable historical baggage, the difficulties the Italians have encountered in trying to provide technical assistance to the GOL on counterterrorism and counter-migration issues mirrors similar experiences of other EU partners and serves as a useful reminder of how difficult it can be to get traction on engagement efforts, even on issues in which the GOL has expressed an interest.  End comment. CRETZ