Thursday

23rd May 2019

Libya violence puts EU border mission in doubt

  • The UN says more than 100,000 people have reached Italy so far this year (Photo: USEmbMalta)

The EU’s flagship border mission for Libya remains parked in Tunisia, as deteriorating security conditions put migrants at greater risk.

The operation - Eubam Libya - was launched in May last year to build up the post-war country’s Border Guard and Naval Coast Guard.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

But since 31 July all its European personnel have moved to Tunisia due to rising violence in Tripoli.

A diplomatic source said it is still in contact with Libyan authorities and organises study trips for Libyan officers outside the country.

But the EU’s External Action Service is currently rethinking what to do with Eubam amid little hope of its returning to Libya to fulfill its original mandate.

Fighting between rival militias over the weekend saw Operation Dawn - a coalition of Islamist fighters and paramilitaries from Misrata, in western Libya - seize control of Tripoli’s main airport and proclaim a new government.

The diplomatic source noted that with the rivals drafting in more and more recruits amid “poisonous rhetoric”, the conflict is becoming “very difficult”.

The situation threatens to halt the country’s economic recovery, with oil production currently between 350,000 and 550,000 barrels per day, compared to 700,000 late last year and 1.4 million before the 2010 war.

With Libya the main launching post for African boat migrants to Italy, the diplomatic source added that the breakdown in law and order also makes it “likely that the safety of migrants is even more at risk than before”.

Libya’s coast has about 80 sites where human traffickers can launch small crafts to Europe.

The UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, estimates that 100,000 people got to Italy by sea so far this year, shattering previous records, while more than 1,300 went missing or died on the way.

The Italian navy on Friday (23 August) rescued 1,445 people on two separate crafts. It also found 79 dead bodies on board.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that a third boat sank off the Libyan coast the same day, claiming at least 250 lives.

For her part, the EU’s home affairs commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, said she will meet Italy’s interior minister, Angelino Alfano, on Wednesday to discuss what the EU can do to help.

“I also reiterate my call to [other] member states to provide assistance to Mediterranean countries facing increased migratory and asylum pressure, in particular by resettling people from refugee camps outside the EU”, she noted.

Alfano himself told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that Italy might be forced to scale down its migrant rescues, amid rising hostility in the country.

He spoke to the newspaper after Matteo Salvini, from Italy’s anti-immigrant Lega Nord party, posted a message saying "Stop the Invasion" on his Facebook page on Sunday.

"Either Europe takes responsibility or Italy will have to make its own decisions. Sadly, Salvini's words show that in Italy an ugly extreme right wing is being born," Alfano said.

Italian right calls for end to migrant rescue programme

Italian right-wing politicians have called for the country's programme to rescue North African refugees from the Mediterranean sea to be scrapped after figures suggested that 1,100 immigrants had been rescued in the past two days.

Europol busts global cybercrime gang

A loose network of cyber criminals recruited from an online Russian forum managed to infect thousands of computers in an effort to steal online banking credentials. The gang has been dismantled, with some now on the run.

News in Brief

  1. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  2. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  3. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job
  4. May struggling to get Brexit deal passed at fourth vote
  5. German MPs show interest in 'Magnitsky' sanctions
  6. CoE: Rights violations in Hungary 'must be addressed'
  7. EU affairs ministers rubber-stamp new ban on plastics
  8. Private companies campaign to boost turnout in EU poll

Opinion

A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us