While the European Union (EU) is looking to further bolster Libya and the Libyan coastguard, a majority of Members of European Parliament (MEPs) and a number of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs) and experts criticize the EU’s involvement in the human rights abuses that are systematically taking place inside Libya. They state that Libya is not a safe place for the disembarkation of migrants and refugees and that by financially supporting Libyan institutions that facilitate widespread and systematic human rights abuses, the EU has been complicit in these crimes. This week steps were taken to address and review the EU’s policies and accountability inside Libya.
Renewed EU financial support
The EU is realigning its budget to further aid Libya and the Libyan coastguard. Although exact numbers are still being finalized, the fund is set to be around €100 million with €15 million being earmarked for the Libyan coast guard and €20 million to fight COVID-19 together with the UN Migration Agency (IOM). The proposal, first suggested by Malta, is to lessen the flow of immigrants and refugees by strengthening the Libyan coastguard to stop ships from reaching Europe. The money is redirected from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa and the European Neighbourhood Instrument. The Visegrád Group (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic) are pitching in an additional €35 million.
MEPs see Libya as unsafe country
However, in a April 27 2020 debate by the Civil Liberties Committee with representatives of the Commission, Frontex, UN Refugee Agency, the Council of Europe and NGOs, a majority MEPs insisted that Libya is not a “safe country” for disembarkation of people rescued at sea and demanded that the cooperation with the Libyan coastguard stops. The Chair of Committee on Civil Liberties, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, said that Libya “is clearly an unsafe place” and that migrants and refugees who are forcefully detained or brought there with the assistance of the EU are refused the “help they are entitled to according to international law.”
Systematic human rights abuses
The systematic human rights abuses over the last years have been well documented – as the UN Security Council said in their report, “migrants and refugees continued to be subjected systematically to arbitrary detention and torture in official and unofficial places of detention. Sexual violence, abduction for ransom, extortion, forced labour and unlawful killings are also widespread. Perpetrators of violations include government officials, members of armed groups, smugglers, traffickers and members of criminal gangs.”
NGO statement to stop EU policy in Libya
On April 28 2020, 13 international NGOs published a joint statement in which they are calling on EU institutions to stop any actions keeping migrants and refugees in Libya, where they are in constant danger. The well-documented “systematic human rights violations in detention centres,” the increased risk of spreading diseases and the political instability and continued civil conflict in Libya are strong reasons for an EU policy change, state the organisations. While “fully conscious of the horrific violations and abuses experienced by refugees and migrants taken to Libya” the EU keeps financing and facilitating the disembarkment and detention of migrants and refugees in Libya in a ploy to that has “been designed to circumvent responsibility under international and EU laws,” according to the statement.
EU funds mismanagement
The statement was a follow-up of a April 27 2020 joint “Complaint to the European Court of Auditors Concerning the Mismanagement of EU Funds by the EU Trust Fund for Africa’s ‘Support to Integrated Border and Migration Management in Libya’ (IBM) Programme.” After a year of gathering information from various EU bodies the complaint argues that EU funds have been mismanaged in breach of international law as well as EU laws governing the EU budget. The European Commission, according to the complaint, has failed to uphold its obligation to not contribute or acquiesce human rights violations. The EU has provided financial means to implement projects it knew would put migrants and refugees are at risk of human rights abuses without any legal measures or monitoring to mitigate those risks.
The debate, report, statement and complaint all conclude that Libya is an unsafe country for migrants and refugees, whose human rights are systematically being violated on a large scale. The EU knows of the risks and violations but continues to finance the facilitation of these human rights offences without proper monitorization. The policies to circumvent responsibility for migrants and refugees by using the Libyan authorities, despite an ongoing civil war, as a buffer and prison warden threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants. NGOs and experts warn that it is a short term ‘solution’ over the backs of innocent people and does nothing to facilitate structural stability or security in the region. If anything, instability is increased as humans are a tradeable commodity concentrated in hubs of vulnerability, poverty and lawlessness.