Amnesty International: Disgraceful EU policies lead to detention of more migrants off Libya shores

Amnesty International

A surge in migrants and refugees intercepted at sea by the Libyan authorities has seen at least 2,600 people transferred, in the past two months alone, to squalid detention centres where they face torture and extortion, Amnesty International said today.

The global human rights organisation accuses European governments of complicity in these abuses by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and sending people back to detention centres in Libya.

“The EU is turning a blind eye to the suffering caused by its callous immigration policies that outsource border control to Libya,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

“When European leaders spare no effort to ensure the Libyan Coast Guard intercepts as many people as possible, they are sending those migrants and refugees straight back to Libya’s detention centres which are notorious for abuse and torture. No one should be sending anyone back to Libya.”

At least 7,000 migrants and refugees are languishing in Libyan detention centres where abuse is rife and food and water in short supply. This is a sharp increase from March when there were 4,400 detained migrants and refugees, according to Libyan officials.

“The EU must stop using the Libyan Coast Guard to contain people in Libya, and instead work to close detention centres, resettle refugees in Europe, and enable UNHCR to assist all refugees across Libya,” Heba Morayef said.

Since late 2016, EU Member States – particularly Italy – have implemented a series of measures to close off the migratory route through Libya and across the Mediterranean, including boosting the capacity of the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept migrants and refugees and return them back to Libya.

Italy and other European countries have provided the Libyan Coast Guard with equipment, including at least four speedboats, as well as with training and other forms of support. In early 2018, the Italian Coast Guard started handing over the coordination of rescue operations in international waters near Libya to the Libyan Coast Guard – a move only made possible by support provided by Italian Navy ships and personnel stationed in Libya.

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