Pumping more money into Libya will worsen the situation of hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers stranded in the country, the Medicines sans Frontiers (MSF)/Doctors without Borders warned the European Parliament members dealing with justice, civil liberties and home affairs.
In February, EU decided to step up its activities in Libya – the main departure port to Europe on the Central-Mediterranean route, including improving conditions in the official detention centres where some of the migrants are kept.
Migrants are big business in Libya. Pumping more money into the system is going to make it worse. Giving money is not going to help improving conditions in which people are held in detention. The solution does not lay in Libya. Libya is part of the problem”, Annemarie Loof, MSF’s Program Manager for Libya said.
Situation on the ground
Leaving the decision to the lawmakers the Medicines sans Frontiers expert set out the appalling conditions in 10 of the detention centres in the capital Tripoli and in the north-west city of Misrata where their staff is working.
Loof testified that the conditions in the detention centres in Libya do not meet any international standards. They are overcrowded and people are exposed to extreme violence, malnutrition and are leaving without clean water and sanitation.
People are locked up in warehouses without windows and ventilation for months”, MSF’s manager said.
Medicines sans Frontiers is the only organisation with international staff on the field while others including IOM and the European Commission are working from the neighbouring countries or with Libyan employees due to the security situation in the North African country.
Loof described horrible scenes of people forced to urinate on the walls and left with only space of half square meter, so they are able just to sit on the floor. The detainees do not receive enough food and are often undernourished and prone to illnesses, the doctors reported. They also have seen scars and traumas of beating and wounds consisted with torture. Libyans can pick people in some form of “sponsorship”, which often ends it is turning migrants into free house labour or even to prostitution.
According to MSF, people are randomly picked on the streets and detained although some of them obtain Libyan visas or are registered as asylum seekers by UNHCR.
The European objectives
“We would like to promote alternatives to the detention centers in the form of open shelter where migrants will be provided with care and assistance”, Maciej Popowski of the European Commission said.
To ease the conditions in the centres the European Commission agreed with the IOM to repatriate in 2017 up to 50 000 people from Libya and assist their reintegration home.
It also assigned in April 90 million EUR from the EU budget for 2017 to a special program for Libya tailored to protect migrants and stabilise the country. The European Commission is planning by the end of May to sign contracts with its partners from the UN – IOM, UNHCR, UNDP, UNICEF and the German Corporation for International Cooperation, who will implement the program.
Another €10.8 million in humanitarian aid in 2016 have been targeted to assist internally displaced persons, returnees and other vulnerable groups in conflict-affected areas.
However, Popowski underlined “the main objective of the EU in Libya is saving lives and providing immediate assistance to those in need” focusing on the EU naval operation Sophia” and ”Seehorse” Mediterranean surveillance network.
EU also is intending to help the local communities hosting the migrants by insuring basic services and economic opportunities equally for Libyans and for the migrants. 120 million EUR of bilateral assistance are dedicated for projects covering the health sector, governance, security, civil society, protection of people, youth and education.
The main challenge to this task remains the access, Popowski says as the EU delegation to Libya still works from Tunis and IOM is only considering returning to the country.
The EU estimates over 1 million people are currently stuck in Libya. The overwhelming majority are not aiming for Europe but are rather a part of the traditional regional migration of workers.
EU – Libya relations – facts and figures
MSF testimonies to the EP’s LIBE Committee (video)
EU naval operation Sophia
EU Trust Fund for Africa Program in Libya – Press Release
Council conclusions on Libya