Libya-discussions in the European Parliament highlight key issues

Recent discussions in the European Parliament, including the European Commission and UNHCR, have highlighted issues of protection, stability and return in Libya. When it comes to Libya, the European Union (EU) is supporting the United Nations (UN) mediation efforts in place. The UN action plan aims at amending the Libyan Political Agreement with a view of having elections in 2018, to “address the immediate suffering of the Libyan people and to build a democratic civil state through national consensus.” The key players believe that the core difficulty in shaping policy on Libya is the division between the structure of the Libyan Political Agreement and the external issues the country is facing, as well as the geopolitical interests of the various groups involved and (human) trafficking. However, the European Parliament makes an important addition to the discussion regarding security.

UN and EU in line: evacuations continue, international solidarity needed

The EU and the UN have aligned their agendas and express common goals for Libya. On March 5, they discussed their work and priorities: strengthening the relationship with the Libyan authorities, expanding the already existing programsin volatile countries not easily accessed and creating new ways of information collection onasylum seekers.

Regarding evacuationand return of asylum seekers, the UNHCR described that they have put in place an emergency transit mechanism where they are transferring the most vulnerable released people to Niger. So far, they have evacuated a number of refugees and asylum seekers, and have transferred them to the government of Niger (characterized as open and cooperative) and to Italy. However, the UNHCR warned that the EU member states need to put more work into resettlement of refugees, as only 25 people from Niger have been resettled in Europe so far. In addition, the resettlement pledges still fall short of the needs.

Simon Mordue, Deputy Director General of the Migration and Home Affairs Department of the EC, stated that the EU and its partners have pushed the Libyan government.This is leading to the creation of a system the European Commission know who the people picked up by the Libyan coastguard are, where they are disembark and where they go to. They are cooperating on this with the African Union Commission for Social Rights, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the European External Action Service (EEAS). The EC has pushed to create a new monitoring scheme based on information collection, to allow the remote monitoring at sea in international waters and to have periodic review meetings with the Libyan navy coastguard and the operation Sophia personnel – the EU program that identifies, captures and disposes of vessels and
enables seizure of assets used/suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers. Operation Sophia continues operating at sea, with the EC mentioning providing training to the Libyan coastguard regarding human rights (e.g. training in humanitarian law). The Head of the North African Unit of the UNHCR described that there is a common focus on internally displaced persons (IDPs) and their host communities.

Regarding resettlement quotas, the UNHCR has advocated for the creation of legal channels and called for more international solidarity, urging the EUMember States to help.

A major task in Libya, the EEAS said, is the creation of “stability through the unification of all the military and paramilitary groups under a single civilian command” to create a rule of law-based country. The EEAS expressed the need to strengthen the relations with the rest of Africa too, particularly with the South, to “address the root causes of migration.”

EP’s draft report on Libya- adding security tothe agenda

Recently, the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) discussed a draft report on Libya for a recommendation to the European Council, the EC and the EEAS. In their proposals they also added the security aspect, agreeing that a military solution should be avoided. The EP proposal is that a Libyan agreement needs to be based on a protocol signed by all armed groups renouncing the use of force and violence, rapporteur Panzeri stressed. Furthermore, AFET suggested, Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) missions should be supported in countering human trafficking, the UN Arms Embargo has to be implemented and trafficking and migration management should be given particular attention. The shadow rapporteur urged the players not to omit issues like Russia’s operations from Egypt “influencing the situation at their convenience.” Members of the EP underlined that international humanitarian law should be taken in account, as people that have committed war crimes have to be brought to justice. Several pending arrests in Libya have not been referred to the International Criminal Court, “whose actions in general have been rather limited”, some argued.

In conclusion, the AFET Committee puts emphasis on the stabilization of the country and respect for human rights. However, the European Commission’s most recent actions focus mainly on measures to prevent the movement of migrants and refugees to Europe by cooperation with the Libyan authorities. UNHCR, meanwhile, warns that more pledges on resettlement are needed from EU member states for the vulnerable people escaping Libyan detention centres.