Sunday

19th Jan 2020

EU monitoring of Libyan coastguard done by Libyans

  • The EU's Operation Sophia trains the Libyan coastguard (Photo: EEAS)

An EU monitoring system to ensure the Libyan coastguard treat rescued migrants with dignity is broadly run by the Libyans themselves.

The system is supposed to prevent EU-trained Libyans from abusing people rescued from within their territorial waters.

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A European Commission spokeswoman told reporters last week that they have yet to receive any reports of abuse - despite video evidence collected by charity NGO boats that suggests otherwise.

"If any kind of violence was to be noticed, we would obviously condemn it," said the spokeswoman.

The EU's Mediterranean flotilla Operation Sophia has trained some 142 Libyan coastguards. The same coastguard intercepted over 19,000 people trying to cross the Mediterranean since the start of the year.

Those rescued end up in militia-run detention centres where they can face abuse, rape, slavery, or even death.

Libyans draft reports

A monitoring mechanism in July was set up to make sure the Libyan coastguard adhere to human rights as part of the EU-run training exercise.

But in practice, it means getting the Libyans to draft reports about themselves.

On the EU side, it means sending experts from Operation Sophia to Tripoli to assess the monitoring but only "when conditions on the ground allow for it".

Operation Sophia is not embedded on the Libyan boats and provides no operational direction or assistance when it comes to human rights.

The EU Commission's comments follow sharp condemnation of the EU training policy of the Libyan coastguard by the UN human rights commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.

Hussein last week also said the EU and Italy are helping the Libyan coastguard intercept people in international waters.

People plucked from international waters cannot legally be returned to Libya.

Hussein said the EU and its member states involvement in the training "has done nothing so far to reduce the level of abuses suffered by migrants".

Italy goes to court

The EU has set aside some €46 million to help train and equip the Libyan coastguard. That money is overseen by the Italian ministry of interior.

But the Italian-based Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (Asgi) is now taking the Italian ministry of foreign affairs to court.

Asgi announced its decision last week and wants to hold the Italian government accountable for the living conditions of migrants stranded in Libya.

"We believe it is necessary to question the policies implemented by the Italian and European authorities, which directly and indirectly finance the Libyan authorities, strengthen them with equipment and instruments," said the law makers, in a statement.

The EU Commission says the EU money spent in Libya is being monitored by the Italian ministry of interior.

It also says that they intend to contract a third party to the independently monitor the activities on the ground.

"As an extra layer of control, the surveillance of the activities may be reinforced through an ad-hoc monitoring," it says.

UN criticises EU policy in Libya as 'inhuman'

The EU's policy of helping the Libyan coast guard to return people plucked from the sea is "inhuman", says the UN's human rights chief, given that most end up in dire conditions.

EU brushes off UN criticism of Libya policy

The European Commission is becoming more defensive of its policies following a string of criticisms from NGOs and the UN's high commissioner for human rights.

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