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26th Jan 2020

Europol keen to bend rules on Libya cases

  • The EU police agency wants more data and information shared on Libya. (Photo: Europol)

The EU's police agency, Europol, wants to start collaborating with Libyan authorities to clamp down on migrant smuggling.

An internal paper from the Hague-based agency, dated from earlier this month, says privacy issues are making the task difficult despite the operational presence of military and intelligence authorities of EU states inside the war-torn country.

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"There is a clear gap in information flows," notes the paper.

The agency wants to start exchanging sensitive information with the Libyans, noting that "public security interests of the EU" must be weighed against "the interests of the (suspected) perpetrator," when it comes to his or her data protection.

Europol is currently investigating 54 priority migrant smuggling cases, including some in Libya, but is unable to nail down evidence to justify criminal proceedings.

Given the widespread turmoil in Libya, a country overrun by some 1,500 armed militia groups, Europol has also been unable to secure any operational agreements with its UN-backed government in Tripoli under Fayez Serraj.

Among the militias is general Khalifa Haftar, a former CIA-asset and now a powerful Libyan warlord, who was embraced earlier this week by Italian officials in Rome.

Haftar had met with Italy's defence minister, Roberta Pinotti, to work out a UN plan to stabilise the country. The general, a rival of Serraj, is accused of ordering his soldiers to commit war crimes. Haftar also controls large swathes of Libya's eastern territories.

The 13-page Europol document does not reference Haftar but notes that the EU's mission to Libya in Tunis, EUbam, is currently trying to identify "functional Libyan authorities" to carry out its anti-smuggling operations.

The document also suggests setting up an "information clearing house" within Europol to hoover up personal data and other intelligence gathered from EU civilian and military missions in Libya.

Europol received some 5,700 messages on migrant smuggling from EU states in the first six months of this year. But the agency says that the exchange of real-time personal data and operational information remains poor, and is asking Italy and Greece to step up their efforts.

"EU member states and Europol need to implement compensatory countermeasures by ensuring their own presence in Libya. Still getting the needed intelligence will remain a big challenge," notes the paper.

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