The EU’s plans to cooperate more closely with Libya on migration risk fuelling the rampant ill-treatment and indefinite detention in horrifying conditions of thousands of refugees and migrants, said Amnesty International.
Last month the EU announced plans to extend its anti-smuggling naval mission in the Mediterranean, Operation Sophia, for another year and to train, build up the capacity of and share information with the Libyan coastguard following a request by the new Libyan government. However, testimonies gathered during visits to Sicily and Puglia in May 2016 reveal shocking abuses by the Libyan coastguard and at immigration detention centres in Libya.
Amnesty International spoke to 90 people who survived the treacherous sea crossing from Libya to Italy, including at least 20 refugees and migrants who described shootings and beatings while being picked up by the coastguard or harrowing torture and other ill-treatment at detention centres. In one case, the Libyan coastguard abandoned a sinking boat leaving some 120 people on board instead of rescuing them.
“Europe shouldn’t even think about migration cooperation arrangements with Libya if it results, directly or indirectly, in such shocking human rights violations. The EU has repeatedly shown it is willing to stop refugees and migrants from coming to the continent at almost any cost now, with human rights taking a back seat,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, interim Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
“Of course the Libyan coastguard’s search and rescue capabilities have to improve to save lives at sea, but the grim reality at the moment is that the Libyan coastguard is intercepting and returning thousands of people to detention centres where they suffer torture and other abuses. It is critical that any support from the EU does not fuel and perpetuate the abhorrent human rights violations that foreign nationals in Libya are so desperate to escape from.”
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(Source: Amnesty International)