TRIPOLI, May 18 (Xinhua) -- Libya officially asked Italy on Thursday to arm Libyan naval boats of anti-migrant smuggling in the Mediterranean.
"These vessels are not armed and we are unable to use them for patrols as smugglers are increasingly armed," Abdullah Tomia, head of a Libyan-Italian anti-migrant smuggling committee, said at a news conference in Tripoli.
"We were dealing with unarmed smugglers before the uprising. But now, we are facing fierce, armed gangs," Tomia added.
Italian Interior Minister, Marco Minniti, visited Tripoli on Monday and met with the UN-backed prime minister, Fayez Serraj. The two officials discussed mutual cooperation and the fight against illegal immigration.
The Libyan coastguard received four patrol boats this week repaired in Italy as part of a cooperation agreement against migrant traffickers.
The Italian-Libyan joint committee also held a meeting last week to discuss illegal immigration and southern Libyan border security.
Due to the state of insecurity and chaos, Libya is a preferred point of departure for thousands of immigrants who want to cross the Mediterranean towards Europe, many of whom drown on the way.