The Montreal security company GardaWorld is in turmoil in Libya. The militia that controls Mitiga airport, near the capital Tripoli, arrested seven of its employees on April 11.

“Our priority remains the safety and well-being of our team and we are actively working with the Libyan authorities to secure their release,” vice-president Isabelle Panelli wrote in an email to La Presse, in the office of CEO Stéphan Crétier. .

GardaWorld, one of the largest security companies in the world, forms a consortium with the French company Amarante International in Libya. Their partnership provides security for the European Union Border Assistance Mission in Libya (EUBAM).

“Seven members of their team, three expatriate contractors and four local nationals, were arrested on April 11, 2023 due to an administrative imbroglio, while they were carrying out a routine task”, explains Isabelle Panelli.

“For reasons of safety of our personnel in the region, we will not issue any additional comment in relation to this situation,” she concluded.

The seven employees – four Libyan drivers and three armed guards of Irish, Romanian and Croatian descent – are in the hands of the Rada, a powerful militia that reports to the Interior Ministry.

In an interview with La Presse, the president of Amarante, GardaWorld’s partner in Libya, assures that the team is working hard at the moment to have them released, but that there is no particular reason to fear for their safety. .

“We have no elements that lead us to believe that they are mistreated or in danger,” said Alexander Hollander.

The boss of Amarante adds that this kind of situation is the lot of Western private security companies deployed in Libya and the rest of Africa.

Assistant professor at the Royal Military College Saint-Jean, Marina Sharpe believes that this situation is typical of the security industry in risk areas.

“The reason for this GardaWorld contract is insecurity,” she said. But that does not mean that the company does not have a duty to ensure the safety of its employees. In fact, she has an even greater duty in this regard, ”said the international law specialist, who is particularly interested in arbitrary detentions.

GardaWorld did not specify what “administrative imbroglio” caused the arrest of its staff in Tripoli.

According to an article by Africa Intelligence, Rada militiamen arrested its employees because they did not have a license to carry weapons from Libya. The specialized media claims that the Montreal company only had a “license issued directly by EUBAM”, the European mission that awarded them the contract.

The Montreal company is increasing its contracts in Libya, notably with the British Embassy in Tripoli and the Italian oil giant ENI.

Some of the company’s staff are “reportedly still working in the field despite their visas expiring”, adds Africa Intelligence.

In its email in response to our questions, Stéphan Crétier’s office did not comment on this information.

At Amarante, Alexandre Hollander ensures that the consortium with GardaWorld is still in place.

“We do everything together,” he said. We coordinate to see how to get out of this situation. We are going to propose options to the European Union. »