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21st June 2017, 10:34:54 UTC

Ahead of the European Council on 22-23 June, Amnesty International is calling on EU leaders to step up efforts to save lives in the Mediterranean, and stop cooperating in returns to Libya, before more drown as crossings increase during the summer months.

“The EU is allowing the Libyan coastguard to return refugees and migrants to a country where unlawful detention, torture and rape are the norm. They are increasing the capacity of the Libyan coastguard while turning a blind eye to the inherent, grave, risks of such cooperation,” said Iverna McGowan, Director of the Amnesty International, European Institutions Office.

“EU leaders need to urgently stop externalizing border control and asylum processing to foreign governments – including some with appalling human rights records. Encouraging those governments to step up border control risks exposing more and more people to abuse. Instead, leaders need to prioritise saving lives, offering safe and legal routes for people fleeing, and dramatically improving rule of law and protection of human rights.”

Interceptions by the Libyan coastguard have often disregarded international standards, including by using firearms. Refugees and migrants intercepted by Libyan authorities are returned to Libya’s shores and from there, with few exceptions, they are sent to detention centres where they are detained indefinitely and subjected to torture, beatings, rape and exploitation by guards.

Amnesty International is calling for EU leaders to:

  •        Open and expand safe and legal channels for refugees and migrants.
    •        Step up search and rescue capacities in the Central Mediterranean, in areas where most shipwrecks happen and commensurate with the number of departures from North Africa.
    •        End any cooperation with Libyan authorities that leads to refugees and migrants being taken back to face indefinite detention, torture, rape and other abuses in Libya and instead focus efforts on improving the human rights situation in the country.
    ·    Review their general approach to third-country cooperation on migration, to ensure the human rights of refugees and migrants are adequately protected.