In the year 1519, Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador, arrived in the New World we now know as America with only six hundred men. Cortes landed on the beach and knew that it would be better if his men were left with only one choice. That evening, whilst they ate on the beach, he set fire to the ships. This sent the clearest of signals to his own men: there is no turning back.
Libyan coast guards know their history well apparently. How do you tell immigrants wanting to cross into Europe that the door is closed? Burn the boats!
Libya has agreed to a deal with the European Union earlier this year. In return for unspecified funds, the Libyans agree to try and stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya into Italy.
There is an important detail to be taken into account though. The Libyan coastguard is still the same as in the time of Colonel Gaddafi held the reins, meaning that these guys only understand power;
So when they picked up eight inflatable boats holding some one thousand refugees, hey put them all on their own vessels and then …. burned the boats at sea, making sure that they could not return. Afterwards, the migrants were returned to the coastal city of Zawya, west of the capital Tripoli.
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You can clearly see the surprised look on the migrant's faces. The messages are indeed coming in. Libyan coastguard tells them to load and clear, the road to Europe is closed now.
Because of this attitude, there has been a sharp drop in migrant crossings between Libya and Italy since July already, which largely attributed to groups of Libyan soldiers around the well-known smuggling hubs of Sabratha and Zawiya blocking departures and arresting anyone without a Libyan passport.
Some boats still manage to get through and leave, mostly from flimsy plastic boats where they are packed like cattle as you can see from the size of the boats used.
Immigrants from Africa are now blocked from entering through Greece with the Balkan fences and blocked from entering through Italy with the Libyan coast guard. Spain will soon find out what it means to be the only road left open.