Libya: oil companies happy, African migrants not so much

British Petroleum (BP) announced Aug. 24 that it expects to move ahead next year with deep-sea drilling work off the coast of Libya—resuming its $2 billion exploration program halted by the revolution against Moammar Qaddafi’s regime last year. The oil major, which in May lifted a freeze on its activities in the North African country, will shortly resume preliminary work on the project, with drilling itself set to start some time in 2013. BP is currently choosing contractors for underwater geological surveying, a tender invitation posted on the Libyan National Oil Company website indicates. Under the deal signed with the Qaddafi government in 2007, BP will explore in the Sirt basin, more than ten times the size of its deep-water blocks off Angola. Under the 2007 contract, BP acquired 31,000 square kilometers of three-dimensional seismic data both offshore and onshore, with explorations in the Ghadames basin of Libya’s western desert. (MarketWatch, Aug. 24)

French oil company Total meanwhile announced that it is ready to make further exploration and production investments in Libya. “We are eager to invest more widely in Libya, to explore and develop new resources,” said Jean-Daniel Blasco, vice-president of Total North Africa in an interview with The Energy Exchange, organisers of the forthcoming North Africa Oil & Gas Summit 2012. Blasco said that Total is “waiting for any opportunity, such as new exploration rounds.” Total this year resumed production in Libya, having suspended operations during the unrest. Said Blasco: “The two fields Al Jurf (offshore) and Mabruk (onshore) are now back to their pre-war production level.” (Libya Herald, Aug. 23)

While enough security has returned to Libya to allow oil operations to resume, the human rights situation in the country remains grim. Militiamen guarding a camp for detained African migrants at Homs, east of Tripoli, murdered three of their wards while suppressing a protest over conditions there Aug. 23, according to Father Moses Zerai, an Eritrean Roman Catholic priest who runs Habeshia, a Rome-based agency assisting asylum seekers. Zerai told the Guardian “the women started a hunger strike over conditions and in reaction the soldiers beat and shot dead an Eritrean man, aged around 20. The women started to yell, the guards then fired at their cells, at which point the men started shouting and the guards beat them and shot two.” Zerai said he had spoken to two people inside the camp and a third source in Tripoli, who had escaped from the camp, which holds some 150. “These guards, some in uniform, some not, are the same militiamen who fought against Qaddafi last year,” Zerai said. European governments, he charged, turn a blind eye to the treatment of migrants, content that they are not reaching “fortress Europe“. (The Guardian, La Reppublica, Aug. 24)

Rival militias also continue to clash. At least three were killed at Zlitan, 145 kilometers southeast of Tripoli Aug. 23 in what was called a “family dispute” between members of the Haly and Fawatra tribes. (APBBC News, Aug. 23)