WikiLeaks 2009 US Cable: Libya takes back 500 Italy-bound migrants

This US Department of State cable, released by WikiLeaks on 31 Jan 2011, was written in May 2009 and describes the first major interdictions of migrants by Italy under the terms of the Italian-Libyan Friendship Agreement.  The events described in the cable are the subject of the communicated case currently pending before the Second Section of the European Court of Human Rights, Hirsi and others v Italy, Requête no 27765/09.  Click here for previous post on the Hirsi case.

Excerpts from the Cable:

“Implementation of a key component of the Italian-Libyan “friendship agreement” has begun, as Italy has returned approximately 500 migrants rescued and interdicted at sea to Libya over the past week. Libyan authorities have notified the local offices of IOM and UNHCR before returning boats arrive in Tripoli to facilitate medical screening, identification, and consular notification. The returnees are then placed in immigrant detention centers. UNHCR has interviewed a number of the detained returnees, noting that only “a handful” of the 500 are likely asylum seekers – mostly of Somali and Eritrean origin; the rest are economic migrants….”

“Libya has accepted the return of three tranches of migrants interdicted or rescued at sea by Italian authorities in recent days, beginning implementation of a key component of the Italian-Libyan “friendship agreement” signed last August aimed at reducing the flow of migrants from Libya to Italy. In each case, the Italians contacted the Libyan navy, which agreed to accept their return to Libya. The Libyan navy did not/not agree to take the migrants on Libyan vessels; rather, in one case, it instructed Italian energy company ENI, which operates an offshore platform in the area, to tow an African vessel to shore; in the other cases, it permitted the Italian navy to transport the migrants back to Tripoli. Once in Tripoli, according to the Italian Embassy, the migrants were processed in an orderly fashion and sent to a detention center.”

“The first group of 227 returnees arrived in Tripoli on May 7. A regional IOM team in Tripoli implementing a G/TIP-funded workshop to enhance Libya’s response to human smuggling and trafficking was on hand to help screen the arrivals and visit one of the three detention centers where the migrants were held….”

“IOM staff here characterized the recent returnees as “the usual suspects” of Nigerian, Nigerien, Ghanaian, and South Asian nationality. The UNHCR mission reportedly interviewed many of the returnees and found fewer than 10 migrants who were likely asylum seekers including “four or five” Somalis and “a handful” of Eritreans….”

Click here or here for the full cable.

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Filed under European Court of Human Rights, European Union, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News, UNHCR

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