Sunday

26th Jan 2020

Amnesty: Italy signs secret migrant deal with Libya

  • Amnesty: 'Italy has, at best, ignored the dire plight of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers' (Photo: Giampaolo Macorig)

Italy has signed a new agreement with the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) to "curtail the flow of migrants," according to a report by Amnesty International.

Details of the pact have not been made public.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

But the NGO in a report out on Wednesday (13 June) says it was signed on 3 April and entitles Italian authorities to intercept asylum seekers at sea and hand them back to Libyan soldiers.

It believes the agreement violates Italy's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights because it does not contain human rights safeguards.

"Italy has, at best, ignored the dire plight of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. At worst, it has shown itself willing to condone human rights abuses in order to meet national political self-interest," Amnesty said.

It noted that asylum seekers from Eritrea or Somalia who find themselves forcibly returned to Tripoli risk abuse and even torture.

Libya currently has no functioning refugee or asylum policy and migrants - for the large part from sub-Saharan Africa - are treated with contempt.

Many end up being accused of working as mercenaries for the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

During the conflict, armed fighters who opposed the regime routinely rounded up migrants. Some were sent to a football club near near al-Madina al-Kadima where they suffered physical abuse.

As of January 2011, there were 8,000 refugees and 3,200 asylum seekers in Libya waiting for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to process their claims.

The UNHCR was able to operate - albeit with limitations - under the Gaddafi regime.

Gaddafi stopped their work in June 2010. But - in a precursor of the new deal - Italy a few months later signed an agreement with the late dictator to halt irregular migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

Its past dealings with Gaddafi put Rome on the wrong side of the law.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled against Italy in February 2012 for forcibly returning migrants to Libya.

The case stems from an episode in 2009 where the Italian navy forcibly returned 11 Somalis and 13 Eritreans to Libya as part of a group of some 200 people who had left Libya on three vessels.

Italy said the operation was a rescue, but it did not even tell the people that they were being sent back to Tripoli.

It also said its bilateral agreements with Libya take precedent over international laws. But the court ruled that anyone who boards an Italian vessel at sea falls under the European convention.

Rome agreed with the court ruling and said any co-operation with the post-Gaddafi NTC would be informed by an "absolute respect for human rights and the need to safeguard the life of people at sea."

But for Amnesty, the April agreement represents a violation of the pledge.

"For the EU, reinforcing Europe's borders clearly trumps saving lives," the NGO's Nicolas Beger said.

Libya: hounding of migrants must stop

Sub-Saharan migrants in Libya face appalling treatment. But despite its fine words, the EU's sole concern is to keep them out of Europe.

Thousands apply for EU border guard posts

Around 7,500 applications were sent to Frontex to fill 700 new border guard posts. The guards will become official EU staff and wear a yet to be unveiled 'European Union' uniform.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan premier refuses to step down, despite ruling
  2. UK set to support new fossil fuel projects in Africa
  3. Leftists MEPs travel to visit jailed Catalan MEP
  4. Bulgaria may expel Russian diplomats over 'espionage'
  5. EU, China, others agree on WTO body to settle disputes
  6. EU Commission makes move against Poland on judges law
  7. Soros pledges $1bn for liberal universities
  8. Merkel: Germany unprepared for 2015 refugee crisis

European politicians caught with Russian 'fake likes'

Politicians and political parties in Europe have had bots generate fake 'likes', views, and comments to boost their online popularity, in what has been described as outright voter manipulation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. AI must have human oversight, MEPs recommend
  2. Second-hand cars flaw in EU Green Deal
  3. Why do EU arms end up in Libya despite UN ban?
  4. Brexit deal to be signed, as sides poised for tough talks
  5. Timmermans urges EU governments to tax carbon
  6. Vietnam sent champagne to MEPs ahead of trade vote
  7. China spy suspect had EU permission to work as lobbyist
  8. EU to unveil 5G 'toolbox' to tackle security threats

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us