Joint statement: Time to review and remedy EU cooperation policies facilitating abuse of refugees and migrants in Libya

One year after the resumption of the armed conflict in Tripoli, and as the humanitarian situation in Libya continues to deteriorate due to further military escalation and the spreading of Covid-19, thirteen international non-governmental organisations are calling on EU institutions to stop any actions trapping people in a country where they are in constant, grave danger.

During the past four years, EU cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard has facilitated the return and containment of refugees and migrants in a country where they continue to be exposed to appalling abuse. Following disembarkation in Libya, tens of thousands of women, men and children have been transferred to detention centres nominally under the control of the Libyan Ministry of Interior, where people have been detained arbitrarily for an indeterminate period of time.  Inhumane conditions and overcrowding are accompanied by the prevalence of torture and other ill-treatment.

The already dire humanitarian situation has been recently compounded by newly escalating violence in Tripoli, as well as by the spread of Covid-19. Indiscriminate military attacks have resulted in deaths of civilians, including dozens of refugees and migrants killed in the bombing of the detention centre of Tajoura, near Tripoli, in July 2019. 

The joint statement supports the submission by Global Legal Action Network, Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration and the Italian Recreational and Cultural Association of a complaint before the European Court of Auditors (ECA). This complaint requests the ECA undertake an audit to determine whether the EU has breached its financial regulations, as well as its human rights obligations, in its support for Libyan border management. In particular, the complaint calls for a special review of the 'Integrated Border Management programme', funded by the EU Trust Fund for Africa. Under this scheme, Libyan coast guard authorities are being trained and equipped, with the specific aim of preventing refugees and migrants from reaching Europe.

In 2019, Saferworld’s report Partners in crime? The impacts of Europe’s outsourced migration controls on peace, stability and rights revealed that the EU’s cooperation with Libya has entrenched war economies and illicit border trades, furthering instability in Libya. As conflict escalates in Libya, it is essential for Europe to ensure that all migration cooperation programmes are devised and implemented in line with its international obligations. In line with the EU’s fundamental foreign policy goal of promoting peace, its migration policy carries the responsibility of contributing to conflict prevention, human security, human rights and sustainable development in Libya.

Read the statement.

Read Saferworld's report: Partners in crime? The impacts of Europe’s outsourced migration controls on peace, stability and rights.

Read Saferworld's briefing: Europe's outsourced migration controls: refocusing on peace, rights and development.