Italy’s parliament votes to continue support for Libyan Coastguard despite dire warnings.
Meanwhile, EU parliamentary group finds faults with Frontex
HUMAN rights violations against people trapped in Libya’s migrant detention centres continued “unabated” during the first six months of this year, a new report by Amnesty International revealed today.
The study, entitled No-One Will Look For You, details the experiences of 53 refugees previously detained in Libya’s official migrant detention centres, 49 of whom were detained after the EU-supported Libyan Coastguard intercepted them at sea.
Amnesty found that despite the Libyan authorities’ promise to close government-run centres where abuse was rife, similar violations — such as torture, extortion, forced labour and sexual violence against men, women and children — have been reproduced in newly opened or reopened centres.
An example of this from the report details how a militia-controlled camp near the capital Tripoli, where hundreds of people were forcibly disappeared, was brought under the interior ministry’s control in 2020, renamed the Tripoli Gathering and Return Centre, and handed over to the former director of the Tajoura detention centre — which was closed in 2019 following numerous incidences of human rights abuses.
Amnesty’s Middle East and north Africa director Diana Eltahawy said: “This horrifying report sheds new light on the suffering of people intercepted at sea and returned to Libya, where they are immediately funnelled into arbitrary detention and systematically subjected to torture, sexual violence, forced labour and other exploitation with total impunity.
“Meanwhile, Libyan authorities have rewarded those reasonably suspected of committing such violations with positions of power and higher ranks, meaning that we risk seeing the same horrors reproduced again and again.
“The report also highlights the ongoing complicity of European states that have shamefully continued to enable and assist Libyan coastguards in capturing people at sea and forcibly returning them to the hellscape of detention in Libya, despite knowing full well the horrors they will endure.”
Amnesty added its voice to calls made repeatedly by civilian refugee rescuers, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), the International Organisation for Migration and many more for EU states to stop aiding pushbacks to Libya, to end the seizure of civilian rescue vessels, to resume state-led rescue missions and to open safe and legal routes to Europe.
But the call, once again, appears to have fallen on deaf ears as this afternoon the Italian parliament ruled in favour (by 361 votes to 34, plus 22 abstentions) of renewing its co-operation with and funding for the Libyan coastguards.
Amnesty also called on the European Union to ensure the European Border and Coastguard Agency (Frontex) is held accountable for “any actions that may have represented a breach of the agency’s obligations under international and EU law.”
Meanwhile, the Frontex Scrutiny Working Group (FSWG) in the European Parliament published a report today accusing Frontex of disregarding reports by “national and international human rights bodies and organisations” that “consistently reported about fundamental rights violations at the border in a number of member states.”
Though the report says it did not find “conclusive evidence on the direct performance of pushbacks and/or collective expulsions by Frontex” in the cases it examined, it did find “evidence in support of allegations of fundamental rights violations in member states with which [Frontex] had a joint operation.”
FSWG said Frontex has “failed to address and follow up on these violations promptly, vigilantly and effectively. As a result, Frontex did not prevent these violations, nor reduced the risk of future fundamental rights violations.”
Top image shows a Libyan Coastguard vessel baring down on an overcrowded refugee boat in the central Mediterranean [Pic: Sea-Watch]