Sunday

29th Jan 2023

EU Commission's Libya stance undercut by internal report

The European Commission claims EU funding for the Libyan authorities are helping migrants - but its statements on Tuesday (20 October) paint a rosy picture compared to an overview internal report on Libya by the EU's foreign policy branch.

An EU commission spokesperson told reporters that its primary objective with the Libyan Coast Guard is to save lives at sea.

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  • Screen capture of internal document detailing progress made in Libya (Photo: EUobserver)

A second spokesperson said that a large chunk of the EU funds go towards supporting the Libyan General Administration for Coastal Security (Gacs). Gacs is overseen by Libya's ministry of interior.

She said 83 Gacs members were trained "on issues like navigation skills for ship management, but also for human rights issues."

The same statement and figure was published on the European Commission's website in July.

But a 60-page report by the head of the EU's border assistance mission (EUBam) seen by EUobserver has described that training as substandard.

Published in early September, the report outlined the state of play of EU-related activities in Libya over the past six months.

When it comes to Gacs training dealing with human rights, oversight, and accountability, it labelled all as "poor progress".

Even basic issues like IT and human resources support fall way below par, it says.

The European Union allocated just under €60m to shore up Libya's border management.

This includes Gacs training, as well as the Libyan Coast Guard. It also recently delivered two boats to the Gacs, refurbished by Italy's ministry of interior.

The contradictory public and private reports cast a shadow over the EU and Italy's involvement in Libya given the human rights abuses of migrants and refugees returned to the country.

Last weekend, senior Libyan coastguard commander Abd al-Rahman Milad was arrested for alleged human trafficking.

Also known as Bija, he is said to behind the drownings of dozens of people.

According to Italian media, Bija had been invited to official meetings in Rome and Sicily in the summer of 2017, where he was presented as the commander of the Libyan coast guard.

Italy's ministry of interior earlier that year signed off a deal with the Libyan leadership to cooperate with the Libyan Coast Guard.

This included the delivery of four patrol boats.

Asked if it would rethink its Libyan funding strategy in light of Bija's arrest, the European Commission restated positions on the need to save lives, but it did not comment directly on Bija's arrest.

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