International Migrants Day: EU must support their rights in Libya!

Libya, Migration and Asylum, Press Release

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Ahead of International Migrants’ Day, EuroMed Rights denounces the escalation of violence against migrants and refugees in Libya and the complicit silence of the EU.

Ahead of tomorrow’s International Migrants Day, as Libya is supposed to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 December 2021, EuroMed Rights denounces the escalation of violence against migrants and refugees in Libya and the complicit silence of the European Union (EU).

The year 2021 has seen a new high in the level of horror faced by migrants and refugees. The recent raid led by Libyan security authorities against migrants and refugees in the town of Gargaresh, near Tripoli, illustrates it: more than 10 people were killed and 5,000 – including women and children – were brutally arrested. Violent forced expulsions of asylum seekers from Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia and Chad, including children and pregnant women, are on the rise, as was recently denounced by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Violence is no longer concealed, as recent events in front of the UNHCR Office show: migrants and refugees protesting their inhumane and well-documented living conditions were met by brutal repression from armed militias.  

Violence on land, violence at sea

These despicable living conditions are indirectly maintained by the EU and Members States who support the so-called Libyan Coast Guards. By providing them with equipment, training and funds, the EU – and particularly Italy – have contributed to the naval interception and pushbacks of more than 30,000 people to Libyan detention centres in 2021 only. This has generated a cycle of violence as migrants who are pushed back are systematically detained in inhumane and degrading conditions in camps disseminated around the country.

This “EU-Libya partnership” is on track to be expanded following the provision by the EU of logistical equipment and tools to improve maritime monitoring capacity, in view of establishing a mobile Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Libyan waters. The delivery took place on 7 December 2021 with the help of the Italian government during what was to be a “secret” operation.  

This delivery followed EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson’s meeting, on 22 November, with the Libyan vicepresident of the Presidential Council, Moussa al-Koni, to discuss migration management in the country. A meeting described as “open and constructive during which the Commissioner repeated the EU’s commitment to support Libya in managing its borders.

The fact that European NGO rescue vessels are threatened by the so-called Libyan Coast Guards does not trouble EU officials at all, despite the qualification of all abuses and inhumane acts as potential “crimes against humanity” as stated in a recent report by the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya.

EU can already support human rights

This support comes as Libya is preparing, in a context of great uncertainty, to hold elections whose results are likely to have an impact on the livelihoods of thousands of migrants and refugees locked up in Libyan camps. The EU and its Member States can already show support to human rights.

“By putting an end to its pushback policy that leads to many deaths, by ending all support to the Libyan Coast Guards and ceasing all financial and equipment transfers to the Libyan security authorities, and by opening legal pathways for thousands of men, women and children who are facing daily violence and abuse, the EU can make a difference right now!”, declared Wadih Al-Asmar, President of EuroMed Rights.

You can listen to EuroMed Rights’ podcast episode “In Libya, violence worsens every day” by clicking on this link.

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