LIBYA could hold the European Union to ransom after threatening to allow nearly half a million migrants to pour into Europe


Detention centres crawling with hepatitis and scabies are crammed with thousands of migrants in Libya trying to make it to Europe. And leaders have threatened to “open the floodgates” to allow them to cross the Mediterranean if the EU does not intervene. Europe has been focusing on the route between Turkey and Greece, pouring 6billion euros into a deal to return any migrants that land on the islands. And the clampdown on the Balkan route has compounded the migrant problem in Libya, with many desperate people now shunning popular routes in favour of lesser-patrolled danger waters from Libya to Italy. It is estimated up to 450,000 people will try to make the perilous 185-mile crossing this year – which is so dangerous one in 54 dies. Frustrated Libya says it will stop policing the waters unless a deal is made with Brussels.Colonel Mohamed Bourgiba, head of the Gweea detention centre, which holds hundreds of migrants, said: “The state is very weak and there is no money. Most of us here aren’t even getting paid.” He warned if things do not improve “we will just stop working and open the floodgates. Because at the moment we are doing all of this for nothing”. Abdel Rahim Rajahi, a colleague of the Colonel, added: “We are operating 50 per cent underfunded but have we seen a single euro from Europe? No.” A Nigerian “pusher”, who connects migrants to Libyan smugglers for a 10 per cent commission, said: “The Libyans are ready to give up. So is Europe ready to take these people? While there is poverty and war in Africa, there are going to be people who want to get on those boats.” In the past, only the brave have taken crossing to Italy, but now the lethal route is becoming popular. Yesterday alone the Italian coastguard picked up 1,500 migrants in 11 separate operations off the Libyan coast when their rafts failed to hold them all.