As Federica Mogherini, EU HR for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy host the Libya Quartet meeting on 23 May 2017 in Brussels, Members of European Parliament raise concerns whether Libya is able to tackle migration and how EU money is being spent.
Birgit Sippel is a Member of the European parliament from Germany. She is the spokesperson on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs issues for the Socialists & Democrats Group. Ms Sippel works in the EP’s delegations to Mashreq and Maghreb countries. She spoke to the OPEN Media Hub following the presentation of Medicines sans Frontiers on the situation in some refugee camps in Tripoli and Misrata in front of the LIBE (Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs) Committee of European Parliament in April 2017.
Transcript of the Interview:
When it comes to give money to Libya to improve the situation in the camps, we clearly need to say that Libya already is a failed state. There is no kind of a government and all the organisations that are still there, including the border coast guard, to some extend are undergone or misused by some smugglers or criminal gangs. So, we have to be very careful whom to give money or to find other ways to support NGOs and refugees but also to give new possibilities for work and employment for Libyan citizens. That’s not easy.
Q: To whom the EU money should go then?
A: At least we should not give money directly to anybody staying in Libya. Because there is always the danger that if you give whomever the money: the NGOs, the citizens, the communities, the smugglers and criminal gangs will step up and say “At least you have to give some amount of the money to me or we will create some trouble”.
We could give money to some NGOs, which are still on the ground but not cash, so that they can organise some things. In the same time, we have to see that supporting citizens of Libya must be the first step forward to reorganise the country.
What can we do in favour of the migrants that are in a trap now in Libya? One step would be to avoid that additional people are entering Libya. Second, many of them go to Libya because they want to work there. We have to cooperate with the European countries but also with countries around Libya to check if those people can be taken out of Libya, to some safe places, places to work, within this region but outside Libya.
Q: When you say to give some money to NGOs, I do not have doubt that you heard the reports that some NGOs are working with the smugglers and there are ongoing investigations in Italy.
A: There is always danger that in their willingness to do something good for the citizens and for the refugees, the NGOs have to comply to some extend to smugglers because there is no other form of organisation. There is no public authority, there is no government. When smugglers or criminals come to you asking for money, of course, you have to give them money. That is why we have to be very creative in which way we have to make use of the money. May be not to give cash money to organisations but to use the money to organise some technical equipment, to give jobs to the people. We have to be very, very creative.
Yes, there have been some criticism on NGOs, but maybe they do not have other choice if they want to do at least something.
Q: The Italian government signed in February an agreement with some authorities in Libya to curb migration. It seems the EU is heading the same way, when some weeks ago the European Commission hosted two military commanders from Libya in Brussels. Would you agree with this approach?
A: Totally not. I think it’s a little bit cynical that whether it’s Italy or other member states or the EU is stepping up to whomever it is in Libya, pretending to be some kind of a government and tell them we support you, we’ll cooperate with you with the only purpose to deal with migrants. To me is a little bit cynical to say this rich continent – the EU, is not ready to do anything. Some member states haven’t taken even one refugee. But at the same time, we say a failed state like Libya could do it. For me this is no good solution.
We can support the civil society if this is possible, we can support other countries in the area to strengthen them, so the same destiny to not come to them, but to urge a non-existing state like Libya to deal with migrants, I think this is not acceptable.
Q: We hear horrific stories on what is happening the detention centres in Libya. Do you think there is an alternative to these centres, or the EU can only help to improve the conditions there?
A: Yes, the situation is disastrous. In many areas, there are no real camps but only warehouses, there is no health service, no bathrooms, not enough food. It is totally overcrowded. So, the question is do we have an opportunity and a chance to create real camps. Good, organised camps and can we assure that they are run by well-organised NGOs or whomever, by some Libyan citizens, or are we running in danger that they will be organised by some criminal gangs. The first step should be to strengthen a bit civil society, then to find out where might be the areas where criminal gangs are not highly presented and to organise there other camps. In parallel we have to work with other countries to see what we can do to improve the overall economic situation not only in Libya but also in the other countries around.