Libya holds Irish nationals as part of dispute with Swiss


TWO IRISH nationals have been detained at the airport in Libya’s capital Tripoli after being unwittingly caught up in a long-running dispute between the African state and Switzerland which has prompted the Libyan government to refuse entry to visitors from Schengen area countries.

The two, both understood to be business travellers, were detained on arrival in Tripoli despite the fact Ireland is not part of the Schengen zone, which encompasses 22 EU countries along with Switzerland, Iceland and Norway. Another Irish passport holder was turned back.

Ireland’s Ambassador to Italy, Patrick Hennessy, who has responsibility for Libya, is in the country and liaising with the Libyan authorities. Mr Hennessy, who recently took up his post as ambassador, was in Libya to present his credentials.

No official explanation has been given for Libya’s ban on travellers from the Schengen area, but the move follows reports that Switzerland has drawn up a list of more than 180 Libyan officials, including leader Col Muammar Gadafy and his family, who are barred from entering the country.

Relations between Switzerland and Libya have deteriorated since 2008 when police in Geneva questioned Gadafy’s son Hannibal and his wife following a complaint they had abused staff at their hotel. Tripoli cut oil exports to Switzerland, withdrew assets from Swiss banks and charged two Swiss businessmen with visa violations.