Saturday

7th Dec 2019

EU to help Libya send migrants back home

  • Conditions in Libya detention centres described by UN as "horrific" (Photo: Internews Network)

EU states aim to help Libya deport would-be migrants back home, and to keep open “all available options” on its response to Russia’s actions in Syria.

The Libya plan was mentioned in draft conclusions for the EU summit to take place in Brussels on Thursday (15 December).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Jihadist groups and human smugglers guilty of sexual abuse and other crimes, in a $300-million industry (Photo: Stephen Ryan / IFRC)

“Initiatives need to be taken to offer assisted voluntary return opportunities to migrants stranded in Libya and curtail dangerous journeys”, the draft text, seen by EUobserver, said.

It added that the EU’s naval operation in the Mediterranean Sea, operation Sophia, should “enhance support” for the Libyan coastguard to stop people from making crossings to Italy.

It also said that the EU wanted to expand the group of five African states - Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Ethiopia, and Mali - covered by so-called migration compacts.

The deals envisage more financial aid for countries that stop people from leaving for Europe, and threats to cut off assistance, as well as trade opportunities, if they do not.

The draft summit conclusions said that “in the light” of “progress” achieved with the group-of-five “additional compacts … could be envisaged”.

They also reiterated the EU’s “commitment to the EU-Turkey statement”, a deal under which Turkey stops migrants going to Greece, despite concerns about human rights abuses by the Turkish regime.

Horror story

The emphasis on stemming the flow of migrants comes amid a report by the UN, published on Tuesday, that detailed the “horrific” conditions for the 38,000 would-be asylum seekers estimated to be stuck in Libya.

The UN report said about half of them are from war-torn Syria, posing questions on the viability of the EU return “initiatives”, and that the real figure of stranded migrants was probably “much higher”

“These are people who, for a range of reasons, feel compelled to leave their own countries and embark on these desperate and precarious journeys. The report lays bare the suffering endured by these migrants who have experienced unimaginable abuse”, the UN’s human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said.

The report said most people are being held in 24 government-run detention centres, which are “overcrowded, with insufficient food and clean water.”

It added that “with no access to toilets, detainees are often forced to defecate and urinate in their cells. Malnutrition, acute diarrhoea, respiratory problems and infectious diseases, including scabies, and chickenpox, are common”.

It said that thousands others are being held in “connection houses” run by paramilitary groups and human trafficking gangs, which work together with corrupt Libyan officials to put them on boats to the EU.

“People smuggled or trafficked into Libya face torture, forced labour and sexual exploitation along the route, and many also while held in arbitrary detention”, Martin Kobler, the UN’s special envoy to Libya said.

Syria options

Speaking earlier this month, rear admiral Enrico Credendino, who is in charge of the EU’s operation Sophia, said the migrant smuggling trade is worth $300 million a year and that jihadist groups, such as Islamic State and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, are taking a share of the income.

He also said the “legal and political pre-conditions have not been met” for closer EU cooperation with Libya due to splits and infighting among Libyan government factions.

Preparations for the EU summit are being made amid the Syrian regime’s conquest, with Russian air support, of rebel-held enclaves in the city of Aleppo.

The fall of Aleppo could prompt tens of thousands more Syrians to try to flee to Europe via Turkey.

The brutality of the Syrian-Russian assault, which massacred thousands of civilians, has seen the EU impose extra sanctions on Syria and to speak of extra measures on Russia.

The draft summit conclusions blamed Syria and Russia for “deliberate targeting of civilians and hospitals”.

They said individuals “must be held accountable” for war crimes and said the EU “is considering all available options” - meaning new blacklists - as events unfold.

Opinion

EU needs a moral migration policy

Europe has the wealth to show moral leadership on migration, but its preoccupation with getting migrant numbers down could make matters worse.

Aleppo's fate overshadows EU summit

EU leaders called for evacuations and aid, but admitted "we have to stand there watching", as Syrian regime, Russia, and Iran committed what some called "war crimes".

News in Brief

  1. Greece denies access to fair asylum process, report says
  2. Report: Self-regulation of social media 'not working'
  3. Turkey: Greek expulsion of Libyan envoy 'outrageous'
  4. Merkel coalition may survive, says new SPD co-leader
  5. Von der Leyen Ethiopia visit a 'political statement'
  6. Over 5,500 scientists ask EU to protect freshwater life
  7. Iran defies EU and UN on ballistic missiles
  8. Committee of the Regions: bigger budget for Green Deal

Opinion

Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'

As ex-national leaders, we know it's not easy to withstand public pressures and put collective interests ahead of domestic concerns. But without strong institutional leadership, EU values themselves risk ringing hollow, not least to those seeking protection on Europe's shores.

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. Russia makes big promises to Arctic peoples on expansion
  2. UK election plus EU summit in focus This WEEK
  3. Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres
  4. Searching for solidarity in EU asylum policy
  5. Will Michel lead on lobbying transparency at Council?
  6. Blood from stone: What did British PR firm do for Malta?
  7. EU Commission defends Eurobarometer methodology
  8. Timmermans warns on cost of inaction on climate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us