Tuesday

19th Mar 2019

EU accused of complicity in Libya migrant abuse

  • MSF says the EU is complicit in the suffering of people detained in Libyan centres. (Photo: © UNICEF/Romenzi)

The EU is financing and perpetuating the cycle of suffering of migrants in Libya by forcing people to return to notorious detention centres, says the the head of a major charity.

Joanne Liu, the president of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) International, told reporters on Thursday (7 September) that European governments are complicit in torture and that the EU's policy of ring fencing migrants in Libya must come to an end.

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

"European leaders need to face up to the fact that forcing people back to Libya is an obliteration of their basic humanity. This is their so-called success, knowingly feeding people to criminals, and tell me, how can we be OK with this?" she said in Brussels.

In a letter, Liu accused the governments in Europe, as well as the European Commission, of setting up policies that feed a criminal system of abuse by sending people back into the hands of armed militia groups.

"Pregnant women are especially targeted in detention centres, even singled out to be raped," she said, following her visits to government-controlled detention centres in Libya's capital city, Tripoli.

Liu said some 200 people, who had been intercepted at sea by the Libyan coast guard, had ended up in the centre she visited, where pregnant women were being raped.

Libya's struggling UN-recognised government officially oversees some two dozen centres via its directorate for combating illegal migration (DCIM). The DCIM counts militias among its own staff, according to an internal report from the EU's border mission, EUbam.

The EU is financing the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) to improve the conditions at government-run centres and help return people back to their home countries.

But MSF described the efforts by the IOM and UNHCR in Libya "as an illusion" in addressing the larger issue of chaos that reigns throughout the country.

In a tweet to MSF following Liu's statements, the IOM Brussels office said that the agency "does not sponsor prisons. Alternatives needed to Libyan detention, but we work to improve conditions."

Earlier this year, the IOM said it had improved the Tripoli-based Trig al Seka and Tareq al Mattar detention centres.

In August, it had also met with Libyan authorities in Tunis "to discuss an initial work plan and the establishment of a coordination body to facilitate rescues at sea."

The UN had demanded that the most vulnerable people be released from the centres in late August, following an almost €10-million pledge by the UK to the Libyan authorities to tackle terrorism.

But the demands to release people from the detentions and open up legal routes for them to escape Libya is likely to fall on deaf ears.

On Thursday, Germany's interior minister, Thomas de Maziere, told German media that anyone who arrives in Europe with the help of smugglers should be denied asylum.

Fewer people leaving Libya

The commission is also praising its own policies in Libya, noting that arrivals in Italy in August had dropped by 81 percent, compared to the same month last year, and another 66 percent between July and August this summer.

"This also reflects the positive work that we have done along the Central Mediterranean route," the EU commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said on Wednesday.

But recent media reports paint a different scenario amid claims that the Italian government is indirectly paying off the Libyan militias to keep people from disembarking in the first place.

Italy has denied the claim. The EU commission has also refused to respond, noting that its policy of training the Libyan coast guard and financing major UN charities in the war-torn country are producing the desired results.

In July, the commission announced a €46 million programme to reinforce the Libyan coast guard.

Last month, three NGOs suspended rescue operations at sea following reports of a hostile Libyan coast guard. The guard was accused of firing warning shots at the boats while in international waters.

Macron wants asylum claims to start in Africa

The French president hosted a mini-summit with leaders from Chad, Libya and Niger, along with Germany, Italy and Spain. Among the proposals is a plan to set up safe zones in Niger and Chad to initiate asylum claims.

EU complicit in Libyan torture, says Amnesty

The EU and its members states have signed up to 'Faustian pact' with Libyan authorities in the their effort to prevent migrant and refugee boat departures towards Italy, says Amnesty International.

Tusk: EU migrant quotas have 'no future'

EU Council chief said obligatory migrant quotas unlikely to be renewed, but warned of "consequences" for EU states that break solidarity.

News in Brief

  1. Blow for May as third vote on Brexit deal ruled out
  2. Three killed in possible 'terror' gun attack in Utrecht
  3. Third Brexit vote this week only if DUP will support it
  4. Germany's two largest banks confirm merger talks
  5. Serbian pro-democracy protests reach 15th week
  6. 'Yellow Vest' riots leave Paris shops vandalised
  7. European woman older when having first baby
  8. Majority of Germans want Merkel to stay on

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  3. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  6. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  11. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  12. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  2. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  5. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us