The EU and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) announced they will double the migrants voluntary returns from Libya to reach 15 000 people between December 2017 and February 2018, compared to 16 000 in the whole past year.
For migrants who cannot return because of safety concerns the EU will offer 40 000 places in Europe under its new resettlement scheme, where the UNCHR will play the leading role of selection the eligible candidates.
This is a turning point in our work to safe and protect lives in Libya and on the migratory roots,
the EU high commissioner on foreign policy Federica Mogherini said following the first meeting on political level of the newly established Task Force for Libya in Brussels. Mogherini added that helping stranded people was a long-term priority that only now allows Europe and Africa to join forces “in systematic way” in order to bring actions to a “different pace”.
The IOM, the UN agency commissioned with handling the returns by the EU, will now receive additional €100 million from the European budget. The money will be shared between the return and reintegration work of the IOM and the refugee protection work done by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.
The Task Force for Libya was established at the EU – African Union (AU) Summit on 29 and 30 November 2017 in Abidjan with the job to scale up returns of migrants from Libya. The group involves the EU, the AU Commission and the UN. The Task Force will have a three level structure, Amira El Fadil, the AU commissioner for social affairs explained. The political level will meet periodically for discussions in Brussels and elsewhere and will include representatives of the EU, AU, IOM and UNHCR, while the working and operational teams will be based respectively in the capitals of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa and Tunisia, Tunis.
The Task Force has pledged to engage actively with the Libyan authorities with Mogherini personally guaranteeing that Libyan President Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj will be kept briefed on discussions and decisions taken by the Trio.
In exchange Tripoli is expected to grant landing rights and extend the list of air companies involved in return operations and allow IOM and UNHCR access more detention centres for migrants.
We know very well that Libya and the Libyan people are the first victims of this situation. As we focus on the situation of migrants inside Libya, we never forget the fact that the priority number one is to support the political solution for Libya for the sake of Libyans themselves”, Mogherini added.
AU’s El Fadid was in Libya last week for talks with President Mustafa Al-Sarraj, the interior minister and the general prosecutor to discuss practical matters, and the AU reached its members to secure their cooperation at the countries of origin.
AU members have will to assist, some are even offering planes to bring back their nationals,
El Fadid said in Brussels.
The EU has voiced its will to “overcome the system of systematic detentions” of migrants and to handle the stranded migrants in Libya. IOM’s director general William Lacy Swing added that the final objective is to turn the detention camps in to reception centres, where migrants and refugees will receive better accommodation and assistance.
The first step in this direction would be the full registration of migrants in Libya, a task for the UNHCR. Lacy Swing said IOM has already handled 8000 people, released from the camps to the refugees agency, which itself registered over 40 000 refugees in Libya, many still in detention.
Europe and Africa will join forces in tracking and arresting smugglers and will exchange more information on traced traffickers groups. The UN and the AU tasked to come with solution on bringing those involved in human trafficking to justice.
We are progressing very fast. The crisis in Libya gave us an opportunity to accelerate the work we were already doing,
EL Fadid told the press.
Adding he is very optimistic IOM’s director general warned the loss of life and suffering is still high with 3000 people drowned in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year. Mogherini signaled access to camps and some areas of Libya is still posing serious concern, as well as the situation of migrants kept in the centres run by militias.
VIDEO: Press Statements by The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini, the African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, Amira El Fadil, Director General of the International Organization for Migration, William Lacy Swing, and UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Volker Turk
Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini following the meeting at political level of the European Union – African Union – United Nations – Task Force
Press Release from the meting