‘Now listen you, you people of NATO. You’re bombing a wall which stood in the way of African migration to Europe …’ – letter from Muammar Gadaffi, May 2011

The body of a refugee washed up on a Libyan shore after the boat on which refugees were travelling capsized – more bodies are being washed up after the flooding of Derna

AS EUROPE’S migrant crisis grows right across the continent, many in the Russian media are recalling the late Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi’s prophecy made several months before his violent death.

‘Now listen you, people of NATO. You’re bombing a wall which stood in the way of African migration to Europe, and in the way of Al-Qaeda terrorists. This wall was Libya.
‘You’re breaking it. You’re idiots, and you will burn in hell for the thousands of migrants from Africa and for supporting Al-Qaeda. It will be so. I never lie. And I do not lie now,’ Gadaffi said in an open letter obtained by the Russian daily Zavtra and published in May 2011 several months before the Libyan leader was killed.
Since the beginning of this year 500,000 refugees have arrived in Europe.
The migrant crisis has become number one priority for the EU countries, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament in his annual message regarding the state of affairs in the European Union.
‘It is Europe today that represents a beacon of hope, a haven of stability in the eyes of women and men in the Middle East and in Africa. That is something to be proud of and not something to fear,’ said Juncker.
The question of what caused the migrant crisis in Europe has evoked a deluge of comments from the expert community and Russian society in general.
Europe is about to lose its reputation as the most stable place in the world, largely because the leading European countries and the United States have been shaking loose the regimes precisely in those countries whose people are now storming railway stations in the EU, experts say.
‘That the refugee crisis is an outcome of US-European policies is clear to the naked eye,’ says senior research fellow Boris Dolgov, of the Oriental Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences.
‘The destruction of Iraq, the destruction of Libya and attempts to topple Bashar Assad in Syria at the hands of Islamic radicals – that’s what EU and US policies are all about, and the hundreds of refugees are a result of that policy,’ he told TASS.
‘It’s a very serious and multi-faceted problem,’ Professor Irina Zvyagelskaya, of the Oriental Studies department at the Moscow state institute of international relations MGIMO, also told TASS.
‘The civil war in Syria and tensions in Iraq and Libya keep fuelling the flow of migrants, but that is not the only cause. I agree with those who see the current events as a trend towards another mass resettlement of peoples, which leave weaker countries with ineffective economies.
‘There are systemic problems that cause people to abandon their homes and take to the road. And the liberal European legislation allows many of them to not only stay in Europe, but also to live there on social benefits without seeking employment.’
‘These people are exhausted, angry and humiliated. They have no idea of European values, lifestyles and traditions, multi-culturalism or tolerance. They will never agree to abide by European laws,’ says Russian author, playwright and stage director Yevgeny Grishkovets in his blog.
‘They will never feel grateful to the people whose countries they have managed to get into with such problems, because the very same states first turned their own home countries into a bloodbath.
‘Angela Merkel vows modern German society and Europe are prepared for problems … That’s a lie and nonsense! I am certain that many of those in France, Italy and Germany, who are pretending compassion and shaking their heads in bewilderment at the news more migrants have drowned or died of suffocation or fatigue on the way, in reality are saying to themselves something like this: “This serves them right! That will teach others a lesson!” says Grishkovets.
Political scientist Fyodor Lukyanov believes that the migrant crisis is just the tip of the iceberg, the gist of the heap of problems that have kept piling up for years.
‘There is a direct link between the migrant crisis and the past fifteen years of western policies in the Middle East,’ says Lukyanov in the Russian government-published daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
‘None of the attempts at intervention has yielded the expected results. On the contrary, each such move merely turned things from bad to worse. But even if the United States and Europe had followed a calmer line, the erosion would still be going on, although at a lower pace.
‘The end result, however, would be the same. While 20th century models were becoming irrelevant in the new conditions, no smooth transition to the next stage followed.’
Columnist and blogger Vitaly Tretyakov wonders why the European Union has walked into this trap which it will never be able to get out of.
‘The reasons are many, but all of them are confined to arrogance and exaggerated self-confidence. In most cases this high-handedness is never expressed aloud, but the “Europeans” always feel superiority over everybody else in this world.’
‘It remains to be seen whether the European Union succumbed to Washington’s pressures or preferred to manifest solidarity with the United States when it decided to speed up the so-called “process of democratisation” in North Africa and the Middle East.
‘Whatever the case, by doing so it helped thrust open Pandora’s Box.
‘Now a vast territory has plunged into civil wars and armed chaos and millions of refugees are forced to flee for their lives,’ Tretyakov said.

  • A century ago, the coastal city of Derna was well known for picture-perfect beaches, palm trees and whitewashed villas mainly inhabited by Libya’s Italian colonial occupiers.

Today, in the aftermath of Storm Daniel, which brought 400mm of rain to the region, overwhelming two dams and sweeping millions of tons of water across the city, much of Derna has been flooded.
The death toll from the catastrophe is estimated at more than 11,000 with another 10,000 still missing and feared dead. Countless more people – perhaps one-third of Derna’s inhabitants, have been left homeless.
In the vacuum left by Gadaffi’s overthrow and the civil war that followed, Derna became a centre for jihadis who pledged their allegiance to Islamic State in 2014.
From 2015 to 2018 the city was besieged by Libya’s eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA).
As a result, the city has suffered from decades of neglect and much of its infrastructure dates back to Italian occupation of the country in the early 20th century. The city has no proper hospital and no schools.
The Wadi Derna dams that collapsed with such fatal consequences were built in the mid 1970s by a Yugoslav company as part of a project to provide irrigation for the region and drinking water for Derna and other local communities.
There are two dams: the biggest, Derna, is 75 metres in height and has a capacity of 18 million cubic metres of water. Mansour is 45 metres and holds 1.5 million cubic metres.
A research paper published in November 2022 warned the two were at risk of collapse.
Rescuers in the eastern city report that bodies are continuing to wash up in the sea, a week on from the devastating floods.
One of the first teams to arrive from Turkey said they immediately removed three bodies from the water.
There are fears for the Derna survivors as there is not enough medicine and clean water for those who have been made homeless.
A spokesperson for one aid organisation said that trying to coordinate operations there was a ‘nightmare’, with difficulty getting aid and rescue teams into the area.
An aircraft from the Russian Emergencies Ministry has delivered humanitarian aid to the stricken area. A Ministry statement said: ‘In accordance with decisions of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian government and the executive order of Emergencies Minister Alexander Kurenkov, Russian rescuers have handed humanitarian aid cargoes over for the population of Libya’.
The Russian Emergencies Ministry’s IL-76 plane delivered relief supplies, such as tents, blankets, portable power stations and lighting systems.
‘In addition, the Libyan side was handed emergency rescue kits for work in the emergency zone,’ the Emergencies Ministry said.
On Saturday, a special flight of the Russian Emergencies Ministry with a mobile hospital and medics onboard also arrived in Libya.
‘Our third plane with specialists from the Tsentrospas team has landed in Libya. About 35 employees of Russia’s Emergencies Ministry will provide medical aid to residents affected by the flood,’ it said in a statement.