Saturday

22nd Sep 2018

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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us