Sunday

27th May 2018

UN criticises EU policy in Libya as 'inhuman'

  • Children face inhuman conditions in Libyan detention centres (Photo: © UNICEF/Romenzi)

The head of human rights at the United Nations has lashed out at the EU's migration policy towards Libya.

In a statement on Tuesday (14 November), UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said forcing rescued people at sea to return to Libya for detention was inhuman.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"The suffering of migrants detained in Libya is an outrage to the conscience of humanity," he said.

The EU has helped broker deals with Libyan authorities as part of a broader plan to prevent people from leaving the country.

It includes, among others, training the Libyan coast guard to take migrants and refugees from the sea and then returning them to the war-torn country.

Many but not all are then sent to detention centres, which are often ruled by armed militia groups.

The EU's naval operation, Sophia, as of earlier this month has trained some 142 Libyans.

A first training package included 93 Libyans, which spent 14 weeks on board the Italian ship San Giorgio and the first two weeks on board the Dutch ship Rotterdam.

Another 20 senior officers at the rank of captain or commodore were trained in Greece. Malta hosted 20 trainees and a module in Italy has been started for another 66 personnel.

The Libyan coast guard has since intercepted almost 19,000 people since the start of the year until October.

Those interceptions were supposed to take place within Libyan territorial waters but charity rescue boats say the coast guard is also operating in international waters.

German-based rescue ship Mission Lifeline said in late September the Libyan coast guard fired shots, boarded it, and demanded they handed over the people it had rescued at sea.

Libya's department of combating illegal migration (DCIM) says some 19,900 people are held in detention centres as of early November, up from around 7,000 in mid-September.

The spike is due in part to the thousands of people left stranded in the smuggling hub city of Sabratha following fighting among rival Libyan militia factions in October.

Both the EU-funded International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) at the time stepped in to help the migrants. Many were sent to detention centres.

The same centres, which also house women and children, are ripe with abuse, including rapes and murders.

"The international community cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the unimaginable horrors endured by migrants in Libya," said Hussein.

He noted that efforts to improve the conditions in the detention centres was not enough and that more needed to be done to ensure the protection of migrant's human rights.

Similar comments were made earlier this year by the president of Doctors without Borders (MSF), a medical NGO, Joanne Liu, who accused the EU of "feeding a criminal system of abuse" by forcing migrants back to Libya.

The EU has in the past said that it is working to protect migrants in Libya.

The EU over the summer set aside some €46 million to boost Libya borders and step up support for the Libyan border and coast guard.

The EU backed programme, implemented by the Italians, includes giving the Libyans both training and equipment in terms of maritime surveillance and rescues.

EU seeks to shut down Libya sea route

EU leaders are aiming to reach a consensus on the Dublin asylum reforms by early next year, announced European Council chief Donald Tusk. But first, they want to shut down the Central Mediterranean route from Libya.

Nepal units arrive in Libya to guard UN refugee agency

The UN is sending guards to Libya to provide security for staff working with the UN refugee agency and other UN missions inside compound premises in Tripoli. The agency's work in Libya is broadly funded by the EU.

EU monitoring of Libyan coastguard done by Libyans

The EU trains the Libyan coastguard and set up a monitoring mechanism to ensure they respect the human rights of migrants. But the mechanism only requires Libyans to file reports about themselves.

Interview

David Miliband: EU should take over 500,000 refugees

David Miliband heads the US-based International Rescue Committee, an international aid organisation. In an interview with EUobserver, he says the EU should take over 500,000 refugees.

Opinion

Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny

Most refugee-related services are outsourced to the private sector and NGOs, which are not adequately monitored and evaluated. When governments and EU institutions provide funding for refugee projects, they should scrutinise the NGOs and private players they work with.

Opinion

Calling time on European-Turkish strategic relations

With an Erdogan-Putin summit on Tuesday, joined by Iran on Wednesday, it is time for Europe to face facts - Turkey's ties with the West are no longer strategic. When Europe goes hither, Turkey deliberately goes thither.

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach