The Government of National Unity (Gun), Libya's executive recognized by the United Nations, is ready to launch a reform to regularize foreign workforce. He declares it in an exclusive interview for "Agenzia Nova" Al Abed Al Rida, Minister of Labor and Rehabilitation of the Tripoli-based government. This statement seems to herald an unprecedented and systemic approach to migration by the Libyan authorities, i.e. the integration of foreign labor within the national economy, going beyond the mere police approach. Al Rida states that this initiative is the result of an in-depth and extensive study conducted by his ministry regarding the employment and salary levels of foreigners in the country. Following this study, the conclusion was reached that the regulation of the area in question plays a fundamental role and that it must be pursued through ministerial initiatives, among which new IT tools are of particular importance. Specifically, Al Rida cited the launch of the Wafid platform last September, "the purpose of which is to simplify the procedures for hiring and hiring manpower for both employers and workers themselves".
When asked about the possibility for foreign workers to resort to legal and transparent channels for sending remittances to their homeland, Al Rida referred to the importance of protecting workers and their rights and recalled "the success of organizing the conference of the Ministers of Labor of the Sahel and Sahara Council", held in Tripoli on 27 and 28 November with the title "A safe Mediterranean and a stable South" and with the participation of representatives of Italy and EU, as well as the recommendations emerging from this conference regarding "the creation of specific banking cooperation mechanisms between Libyan and foreign institutions". Among the latter, Rida cited the Sahel and Sahara Council Bank, which "can count on branches in numerous countries considered labor exporters". The minister continued by emphasizing how thanks to these procedural and financial mechanisms "the labor market will be regulated internally in Libya and new job opportunities will become available (...) while guaranteeing workers' rights and creating a profitable employment environment in the country. and investments". Al Rida also recalled law no. 12 of 2010 and the related executive regulations relating to entry into Libya through ports, airports and by land through legal procedures and employment contracts recognized by the competent ministry as a legislative reference in accordance with which the hiring of foreign labor is carried out.
Asked about Cairo's involvement in this program and the absence of his Egyptian counterpart at the aforementioned Conference of Labor Ministers of the Sahel and Sahara Council, Al Rida he recalled how Egypt represents a very important country for Libya, even more so in light of the shared borders. “The participation of the Egyptian authorities in the program is fundamental,” he said Al Rida, “as it protects workers' rights and guarantees them social protection. Furthermore, Egyptian workers in Libya need both Libyan and Egyptian support especially in legislative and financial terms, thus facilitating their monetary transactions through banks and legal methods. In this way, they would not be victims of blackmail, theft or scams." Regarding the absence of his Egyptian counterpart at the Conference, the Libyan minister replied that Egypt was represented on this occasion by its ambassador to Libya. Al Rida said he was satisfied with the presence and participation of the Cairo authorities, with whom he hopes to collaborate for the development of the program in question. In particular, Al Rida said he was confident that "the ambassador will present the project to the Egyptian Ministry of Labor and that the latter will approve it and want to participate".
Then asked about the role of the European Union and Italy in particular in the framework of this project, the minister underlined its centrality. “Italy, theEuropean Union and the countries of the Mediterranean basin are all interested in this project and it is necessary that they support it, also contributing to the training of workers in Libya. By equipping it with the necessary skills and knowledge, this workforce will be able to establish itself in the Saharan and Sahelian regions as well as in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and other countries in the Mediterranean basin", underlined Al Rida, reiterating how the European role in general and the Italian one in particular is "fundamental and important", with particular reference to the training and (re)qualification of workers. Finally, the minister emphasized how "all this will contribute to reducing irregular migration, achieving development in the aforementioned countries and addressing the causes triggering the migratory crisis. The presence of development and stability in the countries of origin and transit of migrants are of mutual benefit both for the Mediterranean countries of the European Union and for African states".
Al Rida was then asked to also comment on the memorandum of understanding recently concluded with the Bangladesh. It should be remembered that the text, signed on October 25, allows Libya to organize and register Bangladeshi workers, complete their legal procedures, organize their legal entry and ensure repatriation to their country of origin. According to the latest report from the World Organization for Migration (IOM), updated in June 2023, there are at least 23.563 Bangladeshis present in the North African country, equal to 3 percent of the overall immigrant population of 703.369 people. The Libyan minister added that thanks to the agreement it will also be possible to exchange data between Libya and Bangladesh regarding workers, also guaranteeing them payment of the social security system. Al Rida then stated that he is in the preparatory phase “for the conclusion of agreements with the rest of the countries that have workers in Libya in order to benefit from this workforce to support the national economy. Furthermore, the majority of foreign workers do not pay taxes, electricity, water and healthcare costs."
Questioned about the reliability of the data oim regarding the presence of foreign workers in Libya, the minister dismissed them as "inaccurate". According to the IOM, specifically, Libya hosts 175.132 Nigerian citizens (25 percent of the total foreign population), 165.924 Egyptians (24 percent), 123.607 Chadians (18 percent), 30.095 Nigerians (4 percent), 14.783 Ghanaians (2 percent) and 12.581 Malians (2 percent). Al Rida said that more accurate statistics are being prepared for early 2024, given that “there are realities that bring in workers through methods outside the control of state authority and these realities are as illegal as the workers who enter (Libya) as they do not have work permits from the competent ministry".
The project carried out by the Libyan Government of National Unity could have important repercussions on migratory dossiers, in particular with reference to irregular flows. When asked about this, Al Laugh he began by saying that Libya itself is a country affected by crises linked to irregular migration, whether they are relevant on a security, economic or other level. Defining the country's status, the minister stated that “Libya is neither a country of origin nor destination, but rather a transit country for irregular migration. Nonetheless, it is important that Libya plays an important role in managing this phenomenon, and this in a way that benefits both the countries of origin and those of transit and destination. This is our strategic vision at the Ministry of Labour. On the basis of this, the ministry, through discussions with members of the European Union, is attempting to contribute to development support investments in migrant-exporting countries. Libya also benefits from employing workers in a structured way, given that the national labor market is promising and capable of absorbing and integrating a significant number of expatriate workers".
The interview with the member of the Libyan executive recognized by the international community concluded with a question on the security problems that persisted in the North African country and on the repercussions in terms of fears of investing by foreign economic actors, in this case Italians. The minister recognized the link between Libya's stability tout court and security stability as "undoubted", however highlighting the importance of legislative, governance and infrastructural development as well as disarmament programs (including the National project of rehabilitation and reintegration affiliated with the Ministry of Labor and relating to the disarmament and demobilization of combatants). “All these programs – if supported and developed – will prepare the ground for political and security stability that will reassure foreign companies, facilitating their return to Libya with their investments.” Al Rida concluded by stating that these issues cannot be resolved by a single actor, but only by combining efforts: “The political problem cannot be resolved in isolation from socio-economic aspects, but rather through an internationally supported overall vision. We are ready for an in-depth dialogue with international actors (be they the European Union or our neighbors) to achieve stability and sustainable development in Libya."