EU support for Libyan coastguard at odds with new initiative to save lives

On the sidelines of the AU-EU summit in Abidjan, the United Nations, the African Union and the European Union have announced they will put in place a joint EU-AU-UN task force “to save and protect lives of migrants and refugees along the routes and in particular inside Libya”.

Reacting to the news, Oxfam International's Deputy Director for Advocacy and Campaigns, Natalia Alonso, said:

“Refugees and other migrants who escape Libya tell of slavery, torture, and kidnapping. European and African governments have a duty to protect the human rights of all people and that includes migrants. Initiatives to protect people in Libya, including from the inhumane conditions in detention centers and from the risk of violence and abuse from criminal forces, is a welcome and important step.

“However, at the same time, the EU’s support for the Libyan coastguard contributes to stopping and returning people who are trying to escape the hell they are facing in Libya. There is almost no rule of law or protection for migrants in Libya. Unless the situation drastically improves, sending people back there is at odds with Europe’s rhetoric of helping them. Migrants who are crossing the sea to escape Libya should never be stopped and returned back to danger there.

“Libya is a fragile state that needs justice, rule of law, peace and protection for everyone in the country. European governments should focus on that instead of looking at Libya as a gateway to Europe that must be closed. Together with African countries, the EU must provide humanitarian and peace-building support to Libya and its people. Security initiatives must not focus on border protection only, but ensure that people are protected.”

Notes to editors: 
Contact information: 

Aissatou Sall | Abidjan | aissatou.sall@oxfam.org | mobile +221 772 234389

Florian Oel | Brussels | florian.oel@oxfam.org | office +32 2 234 11 15 | mobile +32 473 56 22 60

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