7th Dec 2022

Meloni's navy-blockade plan to stop Libya migrants 'unlikely'

  • The Libyan Coast Guard also enters search and rescue zones controlled by the Maltese (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)
Listen to article

Italy's incoming far-right government will most likely attempt to usher in reforms to deny people their right to asylum.

But some of the ideas put forward by the expected premier-to-be Giorgia Meloni and her Brothers of Italy party are unlikely to see the light of day.

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

Among them is a proposal for a "European military mission, carried out in agreement with the Libyan authorities," to stop people from fleeing towards Italy.

"The question of sending military ships is not a possibility I would consider real," said Luca Masera, a professor at University of Bresvia and a member of Italy's Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI).

Italy was already in 2012 condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for having intercepted at sea and then returned to Libya a group of 200 people.

Government authorities are obliged to abide by international human rights law, even if people are intercepted at high seas.

One way of getting around the ECHR ruling is having the Libyans do the interceptions and returns instead.

This was the underlying premise behind the creation of a Libyan search-and-rescue zone in mid-2018.

The newly-minted zone was in a maritime area that had previously been mostly coordinated by the Italian coast guard.

It was also created following a 2017 agreement between Libya and Italy by its then interior minister, Marco Minniti under the centre-left government of Paolo Gentiloni.

The agreement helps finance the Libyan coast guard, including with boats, who then prevent departures in the first place.

The Libyans were also getting help from the European Union under the pretext of saving lives at sea.

More of the same

Meloni still hasn't offered details behind how such a plan would work in practice.

But a more likely scenario suggests Italy will simply continue to support the Libyans in the deal first agreed by Minniti in 2017.

That means more money and boats for the Libyan coast guard.

What is possibly more feasible is Meloni's idea of offshoring the entire asylum process to countries outside the European Union.

"Maybe she will look for agreements with Tunisia, that seems the most likely but this is also the death for the right-to-asylum," said Masera.

However, Meloni only has to look to Denmark's minority social democrat government for inspiration.

Earlier this month, they announced a deal with Rwanda, in the hopes of one day transferring its asylum seekers to the country.

Denmark's immigration and integration minister Kaare Dybvad Bek attempted to frame it as a humane response to tackling people smugglers.

The UK government plans to do the same, claiming such measures would reduce numbers crossing the English Channel.

Meloni has called such centres "hotspots", a term first coined by the EU in 2015 as a solution for an efficient and streamlined asylum management.

Among the most notorious hotspots was Moria, a ghetto-like encampment on the Greek island of Lesbos that was torched to the ground in late 2020 and then abandoned.

Whatever the new Meloni government, which is set to take over in October, puts forward, the political signals paints a bleak outlook for migration in general.

NGO search and rescue vessels will likely be hit with more administrative fines and paperwork, forcing them to remain moored at ports.

And efforts by Matteo Salvini during his time as interior minister in 2018 to dismantle public reception facilities and services for asylum seekers will also likely resume.

But Italy also has a functional judiciary to challenge Meloni's impulses, notes Francesca De Vittor, a professor at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in northern Italy.

"We have a constitution, we have a constitutional court, and we have a working judicial system," she said.

EU makes bogus claims on Libya coast guard safety

The European Commission continues to claim its actions supporting the Libyan coast guard are designed to save lives at sea. But those intercepted are often sent to detention centres where they face torture, rape and murder.

On board with SOS Méditerranée

Libyan police lieutenant: 'Coast guard are smugglers'

The Libyan coast guard actively works with smugglers and are run by a militia, an ex-Libyan lieutenant police officer. The EU is buying the guard three new P150 high speed patrol boats.


EU should help, not worsen, the refugee crisis in Libya

As MEPs debate the situation in Libya in the plenary for the first time in four years, the International Rescue Committee's Libya director says the EU must act now to prevent the country spiralling further into chaos.


Why northeast Italy traded in League for Brothers of Italy

EUobserver spoke with several business figures and all confirmed they voted for Georgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy because it promised stability, less bureaucracy and tax cuts. Matteo Salvini's anti-EU rhetoric scared them, while they trust Meloni has "more common sense".

Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Terezija Gras from Croatia, Dutchman Hans Leijtens, and Frontex's current interim executive director Aija Kalnaja, are all competing for a job left vacant by the resignation of Fabrice Leggeri.

Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges

Sweden won't make any pledges to relocate asylum seekers under a French-inspired EU plan because there is no legal basis, says Sweden's ambassador to the EU. But Sweden's new right-wing government is also tightening migration rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  4. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  5. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  6. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe

Latest News

  1. EU delays Hungary funds decision, as Budapest vetoes Ukraine aid
  2. Borrell gets pension from MEP fund set for taxpayer bailout
  3. Autocrats make us all less secure
  4. Big Agri's lies: green EU farming not to blame for food insecurity
  5. German top court declares €800bn EU recovery fund 'legal'
  6. EU countries struggle to crack Hungary's vetos
  7. Frontex expanding migrant route-busting mission in Balkans
  8. EU ministers in fresh battle on joint debt, after Biden subsidies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  2. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  3. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us