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31st Oct 2020

Exclusive

EU to help draft Libya's strategy on border security

  • EU Commission also intends to maintain its support for the Libyan Coast Guard (Photo: unsmil.unmissions.org)

The EU will help write Libya's national strategy of border security and management, according to an internal EU document.

Dated 1 September and obtained by EUobserver, the document spells out what the EU's border assistance mission in Libya (EUbam) intends to do over the next six months.

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The move sends a signal greater efforts are being made to prevent migrants and refugees from fleeing the war-torn country.

Drafted in part by EUbam's head of mission Libya, Vincenzo Tagliaferri, the 60-page report also provides a detailed account of what it had done between February and August this year.

It had, for instance, launched a pilot project along with Italy and the EU's border agency Frontex to train the Libyan coast guard.

The coast guard has been key in preventing people from fleeing - but often sending those 'saved at sea' to detention centres, where they face torture or worse.

But it is in his closing remarks where Tagliaferri places emphasis on a so-called 'white paper', EU parlance for proposals.

He said the white paper, once implemented, "will include a comprehensive reform of border administration, aiming at stabilising control and security of borders and migration administration".

The report itself noted that "the Mission (EUbam) has started to work on a draft roadmap, including an implementation plan of the WP (white paper) and aims at starting with the drafting of a National Strategy of Border Security and Management in the upcoming months."

It is also helping the Libyan's draft their maritime strategy, notes the report.

The white paper was not annexed to the leaked report and still needs to be endorsed by Libya's presidential council.

But a flurry of high-level contacts have been maintained throughout the summer months between EU missions in Libya and Tripoli authorities in light of the pandemic and the conflict.

At the end of June, for example, Tagliaferri met with Libya's interior minister in Tripoli. He also met with officials from Libya's ministry of defence, justice, and foreign affairs.

Tagliaferri had only three years earlier described these Libyan institutions as chaotic, highlighting how Libya had suspended its defence minister following the Brak Shati massacre.

Now EUbam is set to sign a new agreement with Libya's interior minister, which aims to enhance relations "including on border management and law enforcement."

It comes against a backdrop of a spike of Libyan Covid-19 cases, notes the report, as well an increased risk of roadside bombings for those returning to Tripoli from the frontlines of what Tagliaferri clearly describes as an active conflict.

Meanwhile, the European Commission was also busy with plans to reshuffle money to give the Libyan coast guard a cash injection.

In June, they met with the EU's naval operation Irini, among others, to discuss EU support for the Libyan coast guard.

Those talks resulted in an "action plan" to further shore up Libyan maritime law enforcement agencies, noted Tagliaferri's report.

'Scandal'

Asked to comment, far-left Swedish MEP Malin Björk said such investments risks making the EU complicit in crimes against humanity.

"If it is true that the EU is stepping up its support to the so-called 'Libyan coastguard', it is a scandal," she said, in an email.

She said paying the Libyans to keep people from fleeing is an outsourcing of the EU's borders.

"The border forces are active in push-backs and in trapping people in Libya, where we know migrants are locked up, tortured, sexually abused, and even sold," she said.

The leaked report comes ahead of the European Commissions' long-delayed pact on migration and asylum.

Last week, commission vice-president Schinas said the pact intends to keep people from leaving their countries in the first place.

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