European Parliament calls for stop cooperation and funding to Libyan coastguard

European Parliament calls for stop cooperation and funding to Libyan coastguard
IRINI: New EU mission to monitor Libya’s UN arms embargo (photo courtesy of the European Council)

The European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) has called the EU to stop channeling funds to Libya to manage migration and to train its coastguard, as the violation of human rights of migrants and asylum-seekers continues.

Libya is a priority for the EU and we have consistently called for a permanent ceasefire and an effective enforcement of the UN arms embargo

According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) the situation in Libya is extremely complicated, in the context of intensifying combat, the COVID-19 crisis and the high number of economic migrants, refugees and internally displaced people needing material and humanitarian assistance.

The UNHCR estimates that about 1,500 people remain in detention centers in “appalling conditions, arbitrary detentions continue to take place” and resettlement schemes of the most vulnerable people to neighbouring countries have been suspended.

The LIBE committee expressed its view at a debate with representatives of the Commission, Frontex, UNHCR, the Council of Europe and NGOs.

A majority of Member of the European Parliament (MEPs) insisted that Libya is not a “safe country” for disembarkation of people rescued at sea and demanded that the cooperation with the Libyan coastguard stops.

The committee acknowledged the challenges faced by front line european countries receiving the majority of the migrants and asylum-seekers fleeing from Libya, namely Italy and Malta, and underlined that the EU common asylum system “needs to be reshuffled, with a focus on solidarity among member states and respect of international legislation”.

Since January, 3,277 persons have arrived in Italy by sea and 1,135 in Malta.

During the debate other speakers expressed their view that member states should be entitled to protect their borders, especially in the middle of a health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some instead criticised the closure of ports due to the COVID-19 pandemic and stressed that letting people drown cannot be a solution.

On 1 April, anew EU military operation in the Mediterranean: Operation Irini  succeeded Operation Sophia, with a focus on enforcing the arms embargo to Libya, in an attempt to contribute to the pacification of the country.

Operation Sophia has worked in an often challenging environment to counter migrant smuggling and human trafficking.

The main goal of EUNAVFOR MED IRINI – the formal name of the new operation – is to support the implementation of the arms embargo imposed by the UN Security Council. It will do so by using maritime, aerial and satellite means. It will work closely with the relevant authorities in our Member States and with the relevant EU agencies.

Alongside this main objective, Operation Irini has a series of secondary tasks. It will provide monitoring and surveillance to prevent illicit oil exports from Libya. It will carry out capacity building and training for the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy. And it will support the fight against human smuggling and trafficking networks.

Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security, said, “Diplomacy cannot succeed unless it is backed by action. Irini is not the only solution, but it is an important part of the solution. The goal is to stop the flow of arms to Libya and contributing to a sustainable ceasefire”

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