21st May 2022

EU report speaks of Libyan coastguard violence

  • The EU's Operation Irini has been at sea since 2016 (Photo: CSDP EEAS)
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The EU is keen to continue training the Libyan coastguard despite its well-known abuse of irregular migrants, a leaked report has shown.

The classified report was drafted by Italian rear admiral Stefano Turchetto, the head of the EU's naval operation, Irini, on 4 January and obtained by the Associated Press news agency.

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In one incident on 15 September, while intercepting a wooden boat with 20 migrants on board, the Libyans used "excessive use of physical force", he said, without giving further details.

In other cases, they used methods "never observed before and not in compliance with [EU] training ... as well as international regulation," he said.

But the "political stalemate" in Libya was making it harder to coach "proper behavioural standards that should be compliant with human rights," he noted.

And "political frustration" had reduced the coastguard's engagement with its EU mentors, he added.

The EU foreign service told AP that the coastguard training scheme "remains firmly on the table to increase the capacity of the Libyan authorities to save lives at sea", despite the setbacks, however.

"When it comes to migration, our objective is to save peoples' lives, protect those in need and fight trafficking in human beings and migrant smuggling," an EU spokesman said.

At least 65,362 people came to Europe using the central Mediterranean migration route last year, according to EU border control agency Frontex.

The figure was almost double the 35,673 seen the year before, but lower than the peak years of 2014 to 2016, when more than 150,000 people a year were coming.

More than 1,500 people also died last year trying to make the crossing.

Meanwhile, interceptions and returns to Libya almost tripled in 2021 compared to 2020.

But for its part, the international charity Doctors Without Borders, warned that more than 32,000 of those intercepted by the Libyan coastguard last year were: "brought back to systematic extortions, violence and abuse" in Libya's migrant detention camps.

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