Saturday

21st May 2022

EU dismisses UN call to stop migrant returns to Libya

  • This week's airstrike on a Libyan detention centre killed at least 53, in a possible war crime. Over 100 people picked up at sea by the EU-trained Libyan Coast Guard were disembarked and transferred to the Tajoura centre (Photo: © UNICEF/Romenzi)

The European Commission has dismissed calls by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to halt the return of people rescued at sea to war-torn Libya.

The UN call followed the airstrike this week that killed at least 53 people at the Tajoura detention centre in the outskirts of the capital, Tripoli, including six children.

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

Asked to react on the UN demands, the European Commission declined.

"I am not going to give reactions to specific statements," a European Commission spokeswoman told reporters in Brussels on Thursday (4 July).

The EU-trained and part-funded Libyan Coast Guard had in fact sent 108 people to Tajoura only days after another bomb had exploded near the facility in early May.

It is unclear if any of those are among the dead or injured as the toll continues to climb in what has been described as a possible war crime.

But Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), an NGO, says the EU is complicit in their deaths.

"We have seen thousands of people who have been intercepted at sea and returned to detention centres even whilst there is conflicts raging around the city," MSF's Sam Turner told PRI media outlet.

Tajoura housed at least 600 refugees and migrants, including women and children.

Another 500 remain stuck at the facility despite the shelling with the UN describing reports that Libyan guards had shot at refugees and migrants trying to flee from the air strikes.

"The number of civilian casualties caused by the conflict has almost doubled as the result of this single attack," said an UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report on Wednesay.

Many of the people that end up in the detention centres are intercepted at sea by the Libyan coast guard. Around 3,300 are thought to be locked up in centres inside and around Tripoli alone.

'No access'

The commission - which funds some €45m from its Emergency Trust Fund for Africa towards Libya, including funding for the coastguard - says it is up to Libyans to rescue people within their own territorial waters "as we have no access", adding that the EU is training them to respect human rights.

But an earlier probe by this website has found people who failed the EU's screening tests for the training, amid speculation some are militias, remain employed with the Libyan coast guard.

"People who are refused EU training return to work. We have received no proof, or documents, that they did something wrong," Qassim Ayoub, spokesperson for Libya's coast guard, told EUobserver last year.

The European Commission says it has no idea on how many have failed the screening tests.

The EU supports the UN agency, along with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), to resettle or send home people stranded in Libya.

The IOM says it has helped return some 5,000 to their home countries spread throughout Africa and Asia.

From the start of this year til the end of June, around 1,300 refugees were resettled out of Libya. Of those, 711 were sent to Niger, 295 went to Italy and 291 were resettled elsewhere in Europe as well as Canada.

Libya: EU first sends migrants back, then deplores deaths

Some 40 died following an attack at a Libyan prison, where people hoping to reach Europe are locked up. The EU commission wants an investigation but remains silent on how it trains Libyans to return rescued migrants to the country.

Investigation

Exposed: French complicity in Yemen and Libya

French defence companies are providing training to Saudis on weapons that France's own military intelligence says puts almost 500,000 people in Yemen at risk. Meanwhile, new evidence has emerged of the French-built Mirage fighter jet being used in Libya.

EU aid pushing Libyan refugees back to war-hit Libya

At least 17 Libyans were returned to their war-torn country after attempting to flee on boats towards Europe. Their fates, along with many others, remain unknown as the EU-backed Libyan Coast Guard sweeps up people en masse.

Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres

A trend has emerged over the past few months where desperate people are paying to get locked up in Libyan detention centres to escape the conflict and with the hope they stand a better chance of getting resettled to Europe.

Macron: 14 EU states agree on a migration 'mechanism'

"The haggling around rescues in the Mediterranean has to be ended," German foreign minister Heiko Mass said after the Paris meeting on migration. However, details of Emmanuel Macron's 'solidarity mechanism' were not specific.

News in Brief

  1. UK to send 'hundreds' of migrants to Rwanda each year
  2. Norwegian knife attacks were domestic dispute
  3. Sweden hits back at Turkey's 'disinformation' in Nato bid
  4. Germany's Schröder gives up one of two Russia jobs
  5. G7 countries pledge €18bn in financial aid for Ukraine
  6. Italian unions strike in protest over military aid for Ukraine
  7. Russia cuts gas supply to Finland
  8. Half of Gazprom's clients have opened rouble accounts

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. What Europe still needs to do to save its bees
  2. Remembering Falcone: How Italy almost became a narco-state
  3. Economic worries and Hungary on the spot Next WEEK
  4. MEPs urge sanctioning the likes of ex-chancellor Schröder
  5. MEPs call for a more forceful EU response to Kremlin gas cut
  6. Catalan leader slams Pegasus use: 'Perhaps I'm still spied on'
  7. More EU teams needed to prosecute Ukraine war crimes
  8. French EU presidency struggling on asylum reforms

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us