Operation Irini raises significant human rights concerns

Europe, Migration and Asylum, Press Release

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While acknowledging the European Union’s (EU) efforts towards a peaceful solution for Libya, EuroMed Rights calls on the EU and its Member States to implement concrete human rights-based measures to protect migrants and refugees finding themselves in or passing through Libya, open legal pathways of access to European territory and protection for those in need of it. EuroMed Rights expresses its concerns over two aspects of the Council’s Decision of 31 March 2020 on establishing a military operation to implement the United Nations’ arms embargo, as detailed below:

  • The collaboration between EU forces and the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy for “capacity building and training” as highlighted in Article 4 of the Council Decision. Over the past years, international assistance provided for capacity development and training of the Libyan Coast Guard in migration matters has had a detrimental effect over migrants’ human rights. Indeed, it is believed to have allowed the Libyan authorities to push back more than 40,000 men, women and children into detention camps where the inhumane conditions violate multiple International Human Rights Conventions. As a further aggravation, credible journalistic work and documentation from the UN Security Council has evidenced collusion between the Libyan Coast Guard personnel and local militia members.
  • The informal announcement that Greece will provide disembarkation ports for migrants intercepted during Operation Irini. This proposal doesn’t seem to make much sense given that Greece has recently suspended the right to asylum on its territory and while registering the highest number of arrivals by land and sea in Europe. Greek camps are overcrowded and in deplorable conditions which has posed even greater health concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In these critical times, the EU must support the most vulnerable, among them the migrants and refugees who are facing inhumane and degrading treatment in Libya – a country torn by war, in addition to being plagued by a global health crisis.