After paying a visit to a detention centre in Libya, the Dutch minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, has declared that the conditions are inhumane. She calls for the closure of the detention centres as soon as possible. Kaag is reported to be the first EU policy maker to openly state this. She continues that alternatives such as open reception centres should be created.
According to the United Nations, 700.000 refugees are locked up in around 30 detention centres around Libya. Minister Kaag, having seen the conditions in the centres, stated that they are not fit for human habitation.
The statements of the Dutch minister are a dilemma for colleagues within the EU and within the Dutch parliament – some within the parliament agree, others question what will happen to the people brought back to Libya if the centres close. The European Union has made deals and policy centred around Libya to make sure migrants will not get to Europe. For example, they finance the Libyan coastguard to stop refugees from crossing the Mediterranean Sea by boat. So far this year, they have stopped around 3600 migrants from crossing the sea. According to Dutch newspaper Trouw, Italy paid smugglers en traffickers to keep asylum seekers from crossing the ocean.
The migrants are then sent to detention camps. Kaag said: “They are a kind of prison. Asylum seekers must not be detained. They must be cared for in a humane way.” The minister does not believe that a deal with the country is possible in accordance with human rights and therefore wants the detention centers to be closed. She says there should be open shelters to which the UNHCR should have access to. Return migrants must be sent to their home countries as soon as possible and refugees with an asylum status should be resettled, she stated.
The question was raised if The Netherlands is going to ask for the closure of the detention centers in Libya within the European Union institutions. Prime Minister Mark Rutte, answered: “It is in the first instance a statement of our intention. The conditions in the camps are inhumane. So it is important that Kaag said it is horrific and that it must stop. Right now, we do not have an action plan to achieve this. But it will be worked on.”