Commissioner Malmström writes her own blog, Cecilia Malmström Mitt Europa (My Europe). Here is her most recent posting regarding her trip to Libya (translated from Swedish with Google Translate). There are several points worth noting – and worrying about. She notes that Libya is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or 1967 Protocol. (Though Libya is a signatory to the OAU Refugee Convention.) She suggests that the new migration agreement between the EU and Libya will involve the UNHCR, but no insight is offered regarding whether or how the UNHCR might return to Libya. She concedes that the European Commission does not know all of the details of the bi-lateral agreement between Italy and Libya which has resulted in the current push-back practice in the central Mediterranean. And she seems to say that she was greatly troubled by what she saw when she visited one of the southern migrant detention centres in Libya during her official trip.
“Just returned from Libya … I have been there to try to initiate a dialogue between the EU and Libya on issues relating to asylum, migration and international protection. … I believe it is necessary to have a dialogue with Libya.
Libya has not signed the Geneva Convention and the concept of asylum is not in Libyan law. … Since Italy and Libya signed an agreement, which we unfortunately do not know everything about, it has basically been that case that no boats are crossing the Mediterranean.
Against this background, I see it as progress that the first time we have agreed a text with Libya, a version of a plan for cooperation, which deals with issues of asylum and international protection… Our aim is to identify people in need of international protection, while helping Libya to raise standards in the detention centres in order to provide decent conditions to people. We also address the issues of border control, labor migration and human smuggling in this plan for cooperation. From the EU side, we are prepared to put up 50 million euros over three years to support reforms. These will obviously not be given as a blank check to Libya but will be provided using the guidelines of the European Commission. For example, we support specific projects by various organizations, including the UNHCR.
Besides holding talks with Libyan ministers, I also visited Libya’s southern border in the middle of the desert, observed International Organisation for Migration activities in Libya, and visited one of the detention centres where many migrants have ended up. I had the opportunity to talk to some of the people there. Several of these stories that I heard have kept both me and my staff awake at night. …”
Click here for the full posting.