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4th Dec 2021

Libya to get new EU-funded boats despite crimes

  • The Libyan coast guard sometimes torch migrant boats. (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)
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The European Commission aims to deliver new 'P150' class patrol boats to the Libyan coast guard, despite possible crimes against humanity at detention centres where migrants intercepted at sea are often sent.

The planned delivery comes in light of a recent UN rights report describing conditions in Libyan migrant detention centres as a possible crime against humanity.

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  • A Libyan patrol boat which had chased a boat of migrants into Malta's search and rescue zone. (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)

The boats will be used by the Libyans to intercept people at sea and return them to Libya where some are likely to end up in such detention centres.

The commission says it had already delivered three rehabilitated boats, also funded by the EU.

But the delivery date for the new P150s remains unclear to the public.

"We will communicate when they are delivered," a commission spokesperson said in an email, last week.

The EU's statement followed a UN human rights council report, citing a litany of crimes at detention centres that "may amount to crimes against humanity."

This includes "reasonable grounds to believe" that acts of murder, torture and rape against migrants form part of a systematic and widespread attack directed at this population.

"Further investigations are required to establish the role of all those involved, directly or indirectly, in these crimes," it said.

When pressed on the UN report, the European Commission denied any responsibility for facilitating their interception and return to the detention centres.

"The main objective of the support is to help contribute to saving lives," said a commission spokesperson, noting that detention centres need to be shut down.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates some 10,000 people are currently detained in the centres.

It said six were killed and at least 24 others injured over the weekend at the Mabani detention centre in Tripoli when armed guards started shooting following a riot and an attempted escape.

More than 3,400 migrants, including 356 women and 144 children, were detained in the overcrowded Mabani centre. Many had been arbitrarily detained, it said.

"Some of our staff who witnessed this incident describe injured migrants in a pool of blood lying on the ground. We are devastated by this tragic loss of life," said the IOM, in a statement.

Those killings also follow renewed Greek support, which recently announced plans to start training the Libyan coast guard.

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