Between May 24 and May 27 around 400 migrants and refugees have been picked up by the Libyan coastguard and returned to Libya. Two of them drowned during the operation. An additional 90 migrants and refugees have been stopped by a commercial ship and have been returned to Libya as well. The pushback operations are funded and supported by the European Union (EU) and individual member states like Malta and Italy. While Libya has been an unsafe place from the start of the EU’s so called externalized border policy, COVID-19 brings even more risks as detention camps in Libya are high-risk areas for the spread of the virus and rescue operations on the Mediterranean Sea have been minimized. An additional element of danger is the intense civil war in Libya, which has turned into a geopolitical conflict and a proxy war between Russia and The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the one hand and Turkey on the other. The war takes its toll on the civilian population; on June 1 another 5 civilians were killed and 11 wounded in a rocket attack near Tripoli.
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.
In February 2020, the most recent European Implementation Assessment titled “Dublin Regulation on international protection applications study” revealed many weaknesses in the current Dublin Regulation. The study, established by the European Parliamentary Research Services (EPRS) together with the research team of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), shows that the original aim of the Dublin Regulation is not being achieved. Moreover, it appears that the costs of its implementations are significant given that its objectives are not being met. The Dublin Regulation, among other things, determines which EU member state is responsible for the assessment of an asylum claim. The assessment of the Dublin Regulation accompanies the implementation report on the Dublin Regulation of November 2019 that was published by the European Parliament.