A year on and the situation in Libya is still fraught ... and it's the most vulnerable who are suffering most
NEARLY a year after the conflict in Libya, the central authorities are struggling to exert their control over the various factions that contributed to overthrowing the dictator. As in all situations of political and social instability, the most vulnerable face the most serious threats. And in today's Libya, even more so than under Gaddafi, migrants, particularly those from sub Saharan Africa, are paying a heavy price.
From the outset of the Libyan conflict on 17 February 2011, migrants were particular targets of violence and abuse, causing hundreds of thousands of them to flee the country. But as the country rebuilds itself, Libya is once again a major destination for migrants from sub Saharan Africa, trying to escape persecution and find work.
Yet in today's Libya, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees find themselves hounded by groups of former rebels (Katibas), acting outside any legal framework in a context of deep-rooted racism, who have assigned themselves the task of “ridding the country of migrants who bring crime and disease”. Migrants are arrested at checkpoints and in their homes and taken to improvised detention centres, run by Katibas, where they are held for indefinite periods in airless and insalubrious cells, suffering physical and psychological abuse at the hands of the guards. They have no idea whether and when they may regain their freedom.
These are some of the findings of a new report issued by the International Federation for Human Rights, Migreurop and Justice without borders for migrants (JWBM), based on an investigation in Libya in June 2012, during which the delegation interviewed hundreds of migrants held in 8 detention centres in Tripoli, Benghazi and the Nafusa Mountain region.
The European Union and its Member States have thus far appeared to ignore these grave abuses and seem to be determined to repeat the errors of the past, persisting with a closed border policy and continuing to finance detention centres on the other side of the Mediterranean.
The testimonies of those interviewed confirm that the vast majority of migrants from neighbouring countries and elsewhere in West Africa have no intention of continuing their journeys to Europe. They want to find work in Libya. Only those fleeing conflicts in the Horn of Africa, seeking the international protection to which they are legally entitled, plan to leave Libya (which has not ratified the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees and has no asylum system). It is these potential refugees who, in desperation, embark on unseaworthy vessels in attempts to find asylum on the European continent. EU Member States must stop burying their heads in the sand and offer these refugees opportunities for resettlement on their territory so that they can benefit from effective and lasting protection.
As the new Libyan government takes its place and Europe negotiates new cooperation agreements, the EU must stop dealing with migration solely from a security perspective and must promote measures to ensure the protection of the human rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Any future agreement must be conditioned, not on fighting irregular immigration, but on the respect by all parties of international obligations and migrants' rights. These issues are all the more urgent since, as the situation in Libya stabilises, the country will once again rely on migrant workers to rebuild and develop its economy. Foreign companies, many of them European, will resume their investments in Libya and the country will become a hub of intra-African migration. The EU must contribute to this mobility with ambition and responsibility, including by developing a more flexible visa policy and by not forcing Libya to readmit non-nationals.
On 25 June 2012, the Council of the European Union pledged to promote human rights “in all areas of external action, without exception”. Will its migration policy be an exception?
Hélène Flautre, France, Greens-European Free Alliance (Greens-EFA)
Edward McMillan Scott, UK, Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), Vice-President of the European Parliament
Marietje Schaake, Netherlands, ALDE
Franziska Brantner, Germany, Greens-EFA
Josef Weidenholzer, Austria, Socialists & Democrats
Ulrike Lunacek, Austria, Greens-EFA
Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, France, Greens-EFA
Isabelle Durant, Belgium, Greens-EFA
Franziska Keller, Germany, Greens-EFA
Sonia Alfano, Italy, ALDE
Bart Staes, Belgium, Greens-EFA
Margrete Auken, Denmark, Greens-EFA
Raul Romeva i Rueda, Spain, Greens-EFA, Vice-President of the Party
Sylvie Guillaume, France, Socialists & Democrats
Marie-Christine Vergiat, France, Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left
Karim Zeribi, France, Greens-EFA
Reinhard Bütikofer, Germany, Greens-EFA
François Alfonsi, France, Greens-EFA
Sandrine Bélier, France, Greens-EFA
Malika Benarab-Attou, France, Greens-EFA
Jean-Paul Besset, France, Greens-EFA
José Bové, France, Greens-EFA
Yves Cochet, France, Greens-EFA
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, France, Greens-EFA, Vice-President of the Party
Karima Delli, France, Greens-EFA
Catherine Grèze, France, Greens-EFA
Yannick Jadot, France, Greens-EFA
Eva Joly, France, Greens-EFA
Michèle Rivasi, France, Greens-EFA
Michael Cashman, United Kingdom, Socialists & Democrats
Barbara Lochbihler, Germany, Greens-EFA, Chair of Sub-committee on Human Rights
Sir Graham Watson, United Kingdom, ALDE, Chair for relations with India
Tanja FAJON, Slovenia, Socialists & Democrats