Sunday

14th Aug 2022

Libya says EU boat-sinking operation 'not humane'

  • Children in Tripoli, the official capital, which is under the control of Libya Dawn (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The Libyan government has said the EU’s boat-sinking operation is “not humane” and is unlikely to get permission to operate in its territory.

Hatem el-Ouraybi, a spokesman for the authorities in Tobruk, in eastern Libya, told the AFP news agency by phone on Monday (18 May) that: "Any military action must be done with the co-operation of the Libyan authorities … The military option to deal with the boats inside Libyan waters or outside is not considered humane”.

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

He added: "The government will not accept any violation of Libyan sovereignty” and "will not accept the plan unless it’s co-ordinated" with his administration.

His comments came after EU foreign ministers in Brussels, earlier the same day, agreed to launch EUnavfor Med - a year-long military operation “to break the business model of smugglers and traffickers of people in the Mediterranean”.

They said in a communique that force generation, planning, and “surveillance and assessment of human smuggling and trafficking networks … will be conducted as soon as possible”.

But they noted that “work to search, seize, and disrupt the assets of smugglers” must be done in accordance with “international law and in partnership with Libyan authorities”.

An internal EU blueprint, seen by EUobserver, adds that “a presence ashore”, including by “special forces” from participating states, “might be envisaged” for the sake of “seizure and/or physical destruction of smuggling-enabling assets (e.g. boats, fuel dumps, embarkation facilities)”.

It also warns that there is “a high risk of collateral damage including the loss of life”.

The EU’s foreign relations chief, Federica Mogherini, noted that the UK, a UN Security Council member, is drafting a Chapter VII, or legally binding, resolution on use of force, which will be put to a vote in New York before the end of June.

She added the EU will seek permission from “the legitimate government [of Libya], which is represented in the UN and which is based in Tobruk”, but that it will also work with other “relevant authorities … be they in Tripoli, be they in Misrata, or be they in the municipalities”.

Divided Libya

Libya, following the death of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, has broken up into at least four parts.

The so-called Operation Dignity government in Tobruk controls the east, while the Libya Dawn alliance, based in Tripoli, controls most of the west.

Tuareg tribe militias and Toubou tribe militias hold sway in two separate zones in the south-west, but other militias, including Islamist radicals, also hold power in major cities including Zuwara, Misrata, Sirte, Ajdabiya, Benghazi, and Derna.

The security situation is so bad that Libya’s oil output is less than a quarter of what it used to be and that the EU’s post-Gaddafi border control mission, Eubam Libya, had to flee to Malta last year.

It is also leaving the door open to incursion by the Iraq and Syria-based Islamic State.

Mogherini on Monday noted the EU is working with the UN’s special envoy, Spanish diplomat Bernadino Leon, on reunification.

She said the criminal gangs which profit from people smuggling are probably channeling income to “financing of terrorist activities”.

But she added there can be “no real solution to the problem” of radical Islamists in Libya “until there’s a national unity government” in place.

Meanwhile, the Libyan remark that the EU plan is “not humane” comes after similar criticism from Peter Sutherland, the UN’s special envoy on migration, and from leading NGOs.

Sutherland said in New York last week that EUnavfor Libya will put “innocent refugees, including many children, in the line of fire”.

Ken Roth, the director of the New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch, tweeted on Monday: “Military force is no excuse for EU to return asylum-seekers to the violence and abuse of Libya”.

News in Brief

  1. Germany to help nationals cope with energy price spike
  2. Germany wants pipeline from Portugal
  3. Ukraine urges US to sanction all Russian banks
  4. Spain evacuates 294 Afghans
  5. EU sanctions have 'limited' effect of Russian oil production
  6. Donors pledge €1.5bn to Ukraine's war effort
  7. Sweden overtakes France as EU's top power exporter
  8. Italy's far-right star in European charm offensive

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts 2022 season
  2. Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey
  3. EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive
  4. Forest fire near Bordeaux forces over 10,000 to flee
  5. Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties
  6. Russian coal embargo kicks in, as EU energy bills surge
  7. Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy
  8. Kosovo PM warns of renewed conflict with Serbia

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us