Why a Refugee Deal with Libya is a Bad Idea
Mattia Toaldo at the European Council on Foreign Affairs argues that a refugee deal proposed by Malta whereby Libyan and European vessels would intercept migrant boats in Libyan waters and return migrants to Libyan ports, should be rejected. In theory, under this deal migrants picked up off Libya would be processed by UNHCR and IOM officials, with those that qualify for asylum afforded passage to Europe, while those who do not would be resettled in Libya or repatriated to their countries of origin. However, Toaldo warns that the situation in Libya is very different to that in Turkey, with whom Europe struck a similar deal last year.
Unlike Turkey, Libya is in the midst of a civil war, with three rival ‘governments’ competing for control of law enforcement bodies. Even with the help of UNHCR/IOM officials, it is madness to expect Libya to be able to implement the EU’s plans. The EU has already made this mistake when deciding to extend Operation Sophia (the anti-smuggling operation in the Mediterranean) to Libyan waters, upon approval of the Libyan government. Unsurprisingly, the approval never came. As such, rather than being resettled in Libya or repatriated to their countries of origin, it is far more likely that migrants brought back to Libya will end up in detention centres.
Which brings us to the second point. Again, unlike Turkey, Libya has never even tried to ratify international conventions on human rights. Indeed, violations of basic rights in Libya are one of the main push factors for migration to Europe, and migrants arriving in Italy have reported being abused, starved and even raped in Libyan detention centres. These reports recently led an Italian court to recognise a form of protection (though not refugee status) to Nigerian migrants who had come to Italy after years living in Libya. It would be immoral for the EU to pursue a policy which is likely to increase human rights violations of this kind.
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