Friday

1st Mar 2024

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

Get the EU news that really matters

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

... or subscribe 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.

Opinion

Ukraine refugees want to return home — but how?

Fewer than one-in-ten Ukrainian refugees intend to settle permanently outside Ukraine, according to new research by the associate director of research and the director of gender and economic inclusion at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

Latest News

  1. Deepfake dystopia — Russia's disinformation in Spain and Italy
  2. Putin's nuclear riposte to Macron fails to impress EU diplomats
  3. EU won't yet commit funding UN agency in Gaza amid hunger
  4. EU Commission clears Poland's access to up to €137bn EU funds
  5. Right of Reply: The EU-ACP Samoa agreement
  6. The macabre saga of Navalny's corpse
  7. Belgium braces for Flemish far-right gains, deadlock looms
  8. Podcast: Hyperlocal meets supranational

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us