Thursday

28th Jan 2021

EU anti-slavery mission in Libya at risk, UN says

  • Around 5,000 people are thought to be detained in Libyan government run detention centres (Photo: unsmil.unmissions.org)

International efforts to release people from Libyan detention centres to Niger have hit a deadlock, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has warned.

A senior official from the UN agency told MEPs in the European Parliament on Monday (5 March) that if more refugees and asylum seekers were not dispatched onwards from Niger to EU states, then the country may stop taking in people from Libya.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe as a group

"We were advised that until more people leave Niger, we will no longer be able to evacuate additional cases from Libya," siad Karmen Sakhr, who oversees the North Africa unit at the UNHCR.

The European Union, along with the African Union, had last November promised to evacuate thousands of migrants stuck in Libyan detention centres following CNN footage of people being auctioned off as slaves for $400 a head.

The pledge was made on the margins of an EU-Africa summit in Abidjan in November, where French president Emmanuel Macron described the anti-slavery mission as an "emergency operation."

It meant freeing people from the centres and sending them to Niger where they would then be dispatched to EU states as part of a broader resettlement scheme.

But of the 1,020 sent to Niger so far under the UN agency's watch, only 25 have left, all of which went to France. Some 312 were sent from Libya to Italy and another two went to Romania.

"There is a need for the countries to come forward when it comes to accepting these cases," noted the UN official.

UN too slow, says EU commission

The European Commission, which also finances the scheme, appeared to blame the UNHCR for the slow pace of resettlements from Niger.

Simon Mordue, the EU commission deputy director-general for migration, told the same MEPs at the hearing on Monday that the agency was simply taking too much time in assessing individual cases.

"They [member states] can and are willing to resettle more but can also do with a bit of help in speeding up the processing of the individual claims by the UNHCR colleagues on the ground," he said.

He also noted that Libyan nationals were now also taking the perilous sea journey.

"We are now beginning to see arrivals from Libya of Libyan citizens, that is not something we have witnessed in significant numbers up until this year," he said.

Some 3,700 people, mostly from Eritrea, arrived in Italy from Libya from the start of the year up until the end of last month.

A joint task force composed of the EU, Africa Union, and the United Nations visited Tripoli in late February. The group had met wit the Libyan foreign minister, deputy interior minister and others.

Estimates suggest around 5,000 people are currently detained in government run detention centres. It is unclear how many are held in those overseen by militias.

Libya return demand triggers reintegration headaches

The UN migration agency (IOM) had planned to help return and reintegrate 5,000 people from Libya to their home countries, but ended up aiding 20,000 in 2017. The extra demand has piled on the pressure.

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.

Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant

Niger has temporarily stopped all evacuations from Libya detention centres under an EU funded programme because so few are being resettled to Europe. Many of those that have been evacuated are pregnant, with some asking for HIV testing.

Interview

Spanish NGO boat bosses face jail for rescuing Libya refugees

Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms had its rescue boat seized by Italian authorities in Sicily earlier this month. Three employees have been accused of migrant trafficking and face up to 15 years in jail and huge fines.

EU asylum claims drop, Germany registers most

EU states, plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, registered 728,470 asylum applications last year, a 44 percent drop compared to 2016. Germany had the highest registrations at 222,560, followed by Italy and France.

News in Brief

  1. Putin holds out olive branch to Europe
  2. US snatched Russian anti-air system from Libya warlord
  3. UK to extradite alleged trafficker to EU despite Brexit
  4. EU puts trust in Boeing 737s after post-crash ban
  5. EU animal-export trade under harsh spotlight
  6. City of London wants to set rules for EU
  7. MEPs want 2030 targets to reduce consumption footprint
  8. Coronavirus cases worldwide pass 100m

EU Parliament pressing for inquiry into Frontex

MEPs are drumming up support for an inquiry into the EU's controversial border and coast guard agency, Frontex. So far, the Greens, the left-wing GUE, and Renew Europe are on board - amid expectations the centre-left S&D will also join.

Turkey snubs Greece on migrant returnees

The Greek government last week requested that the European Commission and EU border agency Frontex help return 1,450 failed asylum seekers to Turkey. Turkey has refused, citing the pandemic.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. Poland imposes anti-abortion law amid EU concern
  2. The EU's vaccine strategy - the key points
  3. EU-AstraZeneca row flares up after vaccines shortfall
  4. First Covid, now McKinsey - how austerity hit EU healthcare
  5. Frontex suspends operations in Hungary
  6. Cyprus: a heavy caseload for new EU prosecutors office
  7. MEPs: Portugal 'risks undermining' trust in EU prosecutor
  8. EU to control vaccine exports in row over delays

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us