In 2011 rebels in Libya’s Arab Spring called on the West to support them as they rose up against dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
The UN, at the time, supported the move which saw a NATO-led coalition (primarily between Britain, France and the US) intervene in Libya with several airstrikes and the eventual death of Gaddafi, whose authoritarian administration had violated Libyan human rights and financed global terrorism.
Seven years on and the effects of this have manifested in militia groups ruling the streets of Tripoli and high levels of corruption which has led to smuggling becoming a huge enterprise. The lack of after-care and planning by the international community that intervened has led to a failed Libya that is a breeding ground for terrorism, specifically Daesh (ISIS) and amidst the chaos thousands of refugees are using Libya as an embarking point for their trip across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
Many of these refugees, however, are placed in detention centres in Libya where they are ‘’routinely exposed to torture, extortion and rape,’’ according to a recent report by Amnesty International. The UNHCR (UN Refugee agency) has registered 56,442 refugees and asylum seekers in Libya and has called several times on EU governments to offer resettlement to these people. However only 1,140 refugees have been resettled from Libya and Niger so far while currently there are around 6,000 people in Libyan detention centres.
In the past two years some EU member states have put measures in place to ensure that the migration across the Mediterranean Sea is blocked for refugees.
In February 2017 Italy struck a deal with Libya that saw Libya’s coast guards patrol the Mediterranean Sea and bring back any migrants they found – despite aid agencies warning the international community of the widespread human violations migrants often face in the north African state. In July 2018 a mother and child were found in the drifting wreckage of a boat that was attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. According to the on-site NGO, Procactiva Open Arms, they were abandoned and had their boat purposely sunk after refusing to be taken back to Libya with the rest of the intercepted group.
The European Commission has recently proposed to bolster European borders, meaning they will spend more on migration control than on developing Africa for the first time ever. The majority of funds (€18.8 million) would go to border management – a 200% increase in the last seven- year budget for which €5.6million was allocated.
Speaking to STAND News, a humanitarian aid worker recently in Libya said:
‘’There is an urgent need for the country to develop a sound legal framework for its migration policies that is in line with international human rights standards. It’s very important to find an alternative to detention centres as they are ruled by militia who [are corrupted by] smuggling.’’
‘’The asylum process is non-existent. Data collection is totally inadequate which means people can be easily sold. Women and children are at risk of abuse and ill-treatment, including rape and human trafficking. The lack of governance and structure has left the country in chaos and smuggling groups have exploited this to the maximum – they see migration as only a bargaining chip.’’
‘’The majority of the EU budget for Libya goes to migration and border control – if the country is not stable illegal smuggling will continue. It’s important to boost investment in Africa to help the continent achieve a socio-economic transformation there so people no longer want to leave in search of a better life in Europe.’’
According to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, the ‘’primary duty of Europe’’ should be to combat the root causes of the migration flows, including the instability and insecurity of large parts of Africa where poverty, famine and climate change play a big role.
The EU commission has said that its next MFF (Multiannual Financial Framework), the EU’s long-term budget for 2021-2027 would increase funds for Sub-Saharan Africa by 23% – from €26.2bn to €32bn.