Closing the EU’s southern sea borders would put thousands of refugees and migrants setting sail from Libya at risk of detention and appalling human rights abuses, Amnesty International warned as European leaders meet in Malta tomorrow to secure an EU-Libya migration plan. The plan was first proposed late last month by the European Commission to ‘manage migration’ on the Central Mediterranean route.
The EU naval operations Sophia and Triton would in practice delegate search and rescue of refugees and migrants by sharing information about the location of the migrant and refugee boats to the Libyan Coast Guard, facilitating their interception and return to Libya.
“The proposal to pull back EU naval operations from search and rescue activities and encourage – and indirectly fund – the Libyan coast guard to plug the gap, is a thinly veiled plan to prevent refugees and migrants reaching Europe. It will trap tens of thousands of people in conflict ravaged country and expose them to the risk of torture and exploitation. This plan is just the latest, but perhaps the most callous indicator of European leaders turning their back on refugees,” said Iverna McGowan, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.
In all likelihood, people intercepted by the Libyan coastguard will be taken back to detention centres in Libya. Amnesty International has documented the indefinite and arbitrary detention of migrants and refugees in such centres, as well as inhumane conditions and other grave human rights abuses including torture and rape. Similar reports on conditions were reflected in a German government paper leaked this week. The proposed plan also omits reference to any accountability mechanism or other safeguards to ensure that the EU would not be directly fuelling serious human rights abuses through this cooperation with Libya.
“It is frankly staggering, given the gravity of the situation in Libya and the depth of human suffering endured by refugees and migrants there, that such a proposal is even being discussed. The lack of any tangible details on resettlement or on safeguards for migrants and refugees trapped in an essentially lawless country betrays the mean-spirited intentions behind this cynical proposal,’’ said Iverna McGowan.