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Cruel European migration policies leave refugees trapped in Libya with no way out

19 Nov 2018
[International Secretariat]
Region:
Topic: Refugees and Migrants

A year after shocking images purporting to show human beings being bought and sold in Libya caused a global outcry, the situation for migrants and refugees in the country remains bleak and in some respects has worsened, said Amnesty International.

Findings published by the organization today highlight how EU member states’ policies to curb migration, as well as their failure to provide sufficient resettlement places for refugees, continue to fuel a cycle of abuse by trapping thousands of migrants and refugees in appalling conditions in Libyan detention centres.

“One year after video footage showing human beings being bought and sold like merchandise shocked the world, the situation for refugees and migrants in Libya remains bleak,” said Heba Morayef, Middle East and North Africa Director for Amnesty International.

“Cruel policies by EU states to stop people arriving on European shores means that thousands of men, women and children are trapped in Libya facing horrific abuses with no way out.”

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has registered 56,442 refugees and asylum seekers in Libya and has repeatedly called on European and other governments to offer resettlement to refugees stranded in Libya. However, only 3,886 resettlement places have been pledged by 12 countries and in total just 1,096 refugees have been resettled from Libya and Niger so far. Italy separately evacuated 312 asylum seekers from Libya directly to Italy between December 2017 and February 2018, but no further evacuations have taken place since.

Over the past two years EU member states have put in place a series of measures to block migration across the central Mediterranean, boosting the capacity of the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept sea crossings, striking deals with militias in Libya and hampering the work of NGOs carrying out search and rescue operations.

These policies have contributed to a nearly 80% drop in the numbers crossing the central Mediterranean and arriving in Italy, from 114,415 between January and November 2017 to just 22,232 so far in 2018. There are currently around 8,000 refugees and migrants being held in detention centres in Libya.

The only way out of Libyan detention centres is through evacuation to another country via programmes run by the UN. For refugees, who cannot return to their home country, the lack of international resettlement places on offer has left thousands stranded in Libyan detention centres.

The opening of a long promised UNHCR processing centre in Libya that would offer safety for up to 1,000 refugees has been repeatedly delayed. Its opening would undoubtedly be a positive step, but it would only assist a small proportion of refugees in detention and does not offer a sustainable solution.

“While Europe fails to extend the desperately needed lifeline to save those stuck in Libya and at risk of abuse, it is time that the Libyan authorities take responsibility for their atrocious policies of unlawful detention and protect the human rights of all people in their territory."

12 November 2018
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

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