Tag Archives: Amnesty International

Amnesty International Report: ‘Libya is Full of Cruelty’ – Stories of Abduction, Sexual Violence and Abuse from Migrants and Refugees

Amnesty International has released a new report entitled: “’Libya is Full of Cruelty’ – Stories of Abduction, Sexual Violence and Abuse from Migrants and Refugees.” (also available here.)  2015-05-11_Amnesty Intl_Report_Libya_Libya_is_full_of_cruelty COVER

Key points include (see formal AI recommendations below):

  • “Widespread abuses by armed groups, smugglers, traffickers and organized criminal groups in Libya as well as systematic exploitation, lawlessness and armed conflicts are pushing hundreds of thousands of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees to risk their lives by attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea”;
  • “In many cases, migrants and refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea have been subjected to prolonged beatings in [detention] facilities following their interception and arrest by the Libyan coastguard or militias acting on their own initiative in the absence of strong state institutions”;
  • “While Amnesty International welcomes the EU’s commitment to increase resources for search and rescue operations, it is also concerned that some of the proposed measures, in particular plans to ‘systematically identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers’ would effectively contribute to migrants and refugees being trapped in Libya and expose them to a risk of serious human rights abuses”;
  • “As more people are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, the priority for the international community must be to dramatically expand search and rescue operations and take effective steps to urgently address human rights abuses and serious violations of international humanitarian law in Libya. EU governments must also increase the number of resettlement places, humanitarian admissions and visas for people in need of international protection”.

Amnesty International makes the following recommendations:

To European governments

  • Urgently ensure the deployment of naval and aerial resources at a scale commensurate with foreseeable departure trends and which should patrol the high seas along the main migration routes. Whether such deployment occurs within the framework of Frontex Joint Operation Triton or through other agreements, it is crucial that ships and aircraft are delivered promptly and deployed in the area where most of calls for assistance come from and a great number of shipwrecks occurs;
  • To reduce the numbers of those risking their lives at sea, increase the number of resettlement places, humanitarian admissions and visas for people in need of international protection and ensure that refugees have effective access to asylum at land borders;
  • Ensure that any action against smugglers and traffickers is addressed through law enforcement measures, governed by human rights law and standards, and that it does not contribute to migrants and refugees being trapped in Libya without any means of escaping the violence;
  • Ensure that human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including against migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees in Libya, are addressed as part of the political dialogue aimed at ending the ongoing conflicts, and that a mechanism is put in place to monitor the human rights situation on the ground following any subsequent settlement. EU governments must also insist that Libyan authorities, armed groups and militias end the systematic indefinite detention of migrants and refugees based on their immigration status; all refugees and asylum-seekers and migrants detained for immigration purposes must be released.;
  • Investigate and bring to justice in fair trials those involved in trafficking of persons.

To the governments of Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria:

  • Keep the borders open to all individuals in need of international protection regardless of whether they have valid travel documents or meet visa requirements.

To governments along the smuggling route:

  • Ensure that any regional co-operation aimed at addressing irregular migration and dismantle smuggling networks fully complies with international law and standards, and does not infringe upon the rights and safety of asylum-seekers and refugees, with particular regard to the right to freedom of movement, the right to asylum, and the absolute prohibition on refoulement.

To militias, armed groups and Libyan authorities:

  • Release anyone detained solely on the basis of their immigration status, nationality, race, religion or ethnicity;
  • Make clear to all those under your command that torture or other ill-treatment, rape and sexual assault will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Remove from the ranks anyone suspected of such abuses;
  • Facilitate visits by independent organizations to immigration detention centres and other places of detention;
  • Ensure that all those deprived of their liberty can communicate regularly with their families and have access to adequate medical care.”

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Filed under Analysis, European Union, Frontex, Libya, Mediterranean, Reports, United Nations

AI Report: S.O.S. Europe – Human Rights and Migration Control

Amnesty International today has released a report, “S.O.S. Europe: Human Rights and Migration Control,” examining “the human rights consequences for migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers that have occurred in the context of Italy’s migration agreements with Libya.”

The Report is accompanied by the “the launch of Amnesty International’s ‘When you don’t exist campaign‘, which … seeks to hold to account any European country which violates human rights in enforcing migration controls. When you don’t exist aims to defend the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers in Europe and around its borders. …  Today, Europe is failing to promote and respect the rights of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees. Hostility is widespread and mistreatment often goes unreported. As long as people on the move are invisible, they are vulnerable to abuse. Find out more at www.whenyoudontexist.eu.”

Excerpts from S.O.S. Europe Report:


Over the last decade, European countries have increasingly sought to prevent people from reaching Europe by boat from Africa, and have “externalized” elements of their border and immigration control. …

European externalization measures are usually based on bilateral agreements between individual countries in Europe and Africa. Many European countries have such agreements, but the majority do not publicize the details. For example, Italy has co-operation agreements in the field of “migration and security” with Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia,2 while Spain has co-operation agreements on migration with Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Mauritania.3

At another level, the European Union (EU) engages directly with countries in North and West Africa on migration control, using political dialogue and a variety of mechanisms and financial instruments. For example in 2010, the European Commission agreed a cooperation agenda on migration with Libya, which was suspended when conflict erupted in 2011. Since the end of the conflict, however, dialogue between the EU and Libya on migration issues has resumed.

The European Agency for the Management of Operational Co-operation at the External Borders of the Member States of the EU (known as FRONTEX) also operates outside European territory. FRONTEX undertakes sea patrols beyond European waters in the Mediterranean Sea, and off West African coasts, including in the territorial waters of Senegal and Mauritania, where patrols are carried out in cooperation with the authorities of those countries.

The policy of externalization of border control activities has been controversial. Critics have accused the EU and some of its member states of entering into agreements or engaging in initiatives that place the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers at risk. A lack of transparency around the various agreements and activities has fuelled criticism.

This report examines some of the human rights consequences for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers that have occurred in the context of Italy’s migration agreements with Libya. It also raises concerns about serious failures in relation to rescue-at-sea operations, which require further investigation. The report is produced as part of wider work by Amnesty International to examine the human rights impacts of European externalization policies and practices.




The implementation of the agreements between Libya and Italy was suspended in practice during the first months of the conflict in Libya, although the agreements themselves were not set aside. While the armed conflict was still raging in Libya, Italy signed a memorandum of understanding with the Libyan National Transitional Council in which the two parties confirmed their commitment to co-operate in the area of irregular migration including through “the repatriation of immigrants in an irregular situation.”8 In spite of representations by Amnesty International and others on the current level of human rights abuses, on 3 April 2012 Italy signed another agreement with Libya to “curtail the flow of migrants”.9 The agreement has not been made public. A press release announced the agreement, but did not include any details on the measures that have been agreed, or anything to suggest that the present dire human rights predicament confronting migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers in Libya will be addressed.



Human rights and refugee law requires all states to respect and protect the rights of people within their jurisdiction: this includes people within the state’s territorial waters, and also includes a range of different contexts where individuals may be deemed to be within a certain state’s jurisdiction.


States must also ensure that they do not enter into agreements – bilaterally or multilaterally – that would result in human rights abuses. This means states should assess all agreements to ensure that they are not based on, or likely to cause or contribute to, human rights violations. In the context of externalization, this raises serious questions about the legitimacy of European involvement – whether at a state-to-state level or through FRONTEX – in operations to intercept boats in the territorial waters of another state, when those intercepted would be at a real risk of human rights abuses.

A state cannot deploy its official resources, agents or equipment to implement actions that would constitute or lead to human rights violations, including within the territorial jurisdiction of another state.


Agreements between Italy and Libya include measures that result in serious human rights violations. Agreements between other countries in Europe and North and West Africa, and agreements and operations involving the EU and FRONTEX, also need to be examined in terms of their human rights impacts. However, with so little transparency surrounding migration control agreements and practices, scrutiny to date has been limited.



Amnesty International urges all states to protect the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, according to international standards, This report has focused on Italy.


  • set aside its existing migration control agreements with Libya;
  • not enter into any further agreements with Libya until the latter is able to demonstrate that it respects and protects the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants and has in place a satisfactory system for assessing and recognizing claims for international protection;
  • ensure that all migration control agreements negotiated with Libya or any other countries are made public.


  • ensure that their migration control policies and practices do not cause, contribute to, or benefit from human rights violations;
  • ensure their migration control agreements fully respect international and European human rights and refugee law, as well as the law of the sea; include adequate safeguards to protect human rights with appropriate implementation mechanisms; and be made public;
  • ensure their interception operations look to the safety of people in distress in interception and rescue operations and include measures that provide access to individualized assessment procedures, including the opportunity to claim asylum;
  • ensure their search-and-rescue bodies increase their capacity and co-operation in the Mediterranean Sea; publicly report on measures to reduce deaths at sea; and that Search and Rescue obligations are read and implemented in a manner that is consistent with the requirements of refugee and human rights law.”

Click here (EN), here (EN), or here (FR) for Report.

See also www.whenyoudontexist.eu


Filed under Eastern Atlantic, European Union, Frontex, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, Reports

Libya Asks EU to Assist with Renovation of Migrant Detention Centres

At a press conference held last week, Libyan Interior Minister Fawzi Abdelali asked the European Union for assistance in dealing with new immigration flows and specifically requested assistance to renovate 19 existing migrant detention centres.  (Global Detention Project identified 27 dedicated immigration detention centres in Libya as of late 2009.)

Libyan officials have said recently that irregular migration flows are resuming.  AFP reported that Libyan interior ministry spokesman General Abdelmonem al-Tunsi said on 19 January “that illegal immigration had resumed since the end of the anti-Kadhafi revolt” and “thousands of people from … Syria were also entering through the Massad terminal on the border with Egypt, apart from Africans infiltrating through the southern borders.”

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti traveled to Tripoli on 21 January to meet with the Libyan NTC.  Prior to his trip Amnesty International sent Monti a letter urging him to address numerous matters with the Libyans, including the eradication of torture, reforming the criminal justice system, and ratifying the Refugee Convention.

Amnesty also called upon Italy not to resume push-back operations at sea and to refrain from cooperating with Libya on other migration control practices until appropriate reforms are instituted within Libya.  There are fears that Italy is moving towards resuming coordination with Libya on immigration control matters.  Italian Interior Minister Anne Marie Cancellieri is reportedly scheduled to travel to Tripoli next month to discuss bilateral cooperation on immigration.

Translated excerpts from Amnesty’s press statement regarding the AI letter to PM Monti:

“With regard to cooperation on migration between Italy and Libya, Amnesty International calls on the Italian Government:

  • To desist from conducting any operation of ‘refoulement’ (deportation) at sea to Libya and cooperating with Libya to intercept migrants and reject them;
  • To set aside the Memorandum of Understanding on ‘migration control’, signed with the National Transitional Council (CNT) on June 17, 2011, until a thorough review is conducted of the impact on human rights agreements signed by the two countries in this area, and until the necessary changes have been introduced in order to ensure that the ‘immigration control’ is never carried out at the expense of human rights;
  • To ensure that all forms of cooperation with the Libyan authorities are absolutely transparent and subject to the commitment and ability of both parties to fully respect the human rights of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, and are consistent with the international law of human rights and international refugee law….”

Click here for AI Letter. (IT)

Click here (EN), here (IT), here (EN), here (IT), and here (IT) for articles.

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Filed under European Union, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News

Pillay: Extreme Concern Regarding Ill-Treatment of Detainees in Libya, Including Large Number of Sub-Saharan Africans

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay addressed the UN Security Council on 25 January regarding the situation in Libya.  Pillay expressed extreme concern regarding the conditions of detention in Libya faced by thousands of detainees, including a large number of Sub-Saharan African nationals, and called for all detention centres to be brought under the control of the Ministry of Justice and the General Prosecutor’s Office.

Amnesty International and MSF have both just released additional reports documenting ongoing torture of detainees in Libya.

Excerpts from Pillay’s statement:

“The Interim Government still does not exercise effective control over the revolutionary brigades and this has human rights repercussions in a number of areas. …

A related area that I am extremely concerned about is the conditions of detention and treatment of detainees held by various revolutionary brigades. The ICRC visited over 8,500 detainees in approximately 60 places of detention between March and December 2011. The majority of detainees are accused of being Gaddafi loyalists and include a large number of sub-Saharan African nationals. The lack of oversight by the central authorities creates an environment conducive to torture and ill-treatment. My staff have received alarming reports that this is happening in places of detention that they have visited.

It is therefore urgent that all detention centres are brought under the control of the Ministry of Justice and the General Prosecutor’s Office. Moreover, a structure and process for judicial screening of detainees should be put in place immediately so that those detainees held without any legal basis can be released while others receive a fair trial. … However, detainees continue to be held in unacceptable circumstances outside any legal framework or the protection of the state….”

Click here for Pillay’s Statement.

Click here for AI Statement.

Click here for MSF Statement.

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Filed under Libya, News, OHCHR, Reports, Statements

Amnesty International Report: Year of Rebellion – The State of Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa

Amnesty International this morning released a report entitled “Year of Rebellion – The State of Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa” focusing on the events of 2011 in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, and Iraq.  Additional chapters in the Report address the “International response”, the “Failure to put human rights first”, “Protection of displaced people”, and “Arms transfers”, among other topics.


“This report describes the events of this historic, tumultuous year, one which saw so much suffering and sadness but also spread so much hope within the region and beyond, to countries where other people face repression and everyday abuse of their human rights. Amnesty International too was challenged, as never before, to respond to the events by documenting the violations that were committed and, most of all, by mobilizing its members and supporters to extraordinary lengths in support and solidarity with the people in the streets of Cairo, Benghazi, Sana’a, Manama, Dera’a and elsewhere who were truly “in the frontline” in demanding reform, accountability and real guarantees for human rights. This report is dedicated to them, their suffering and their momentous achievements.”

“Protection of Displaced People- … Many of those who fled Libya sought safety in neighbouring countries, mainly in Egypt and Tunisia. However, around 5,000 sub-Saharan refugees and asylum-seekers remain stranded in desert camps in Tunisia and makeshift tents in Saloum, a remote border point in Egypt. When Amnesty International visited the camps in June and July, poor conditions and insecurity prevailed, making life extremely challenging for those living there. Unlike the thousands of migrants who were repatriated during the initial stages of the conflict, these people cannot return to their home countries because they would then be at risk of persecution. Nor can they remain in Egypt and Tunisia, which have been unwilling to offer long-term solutions to refugees. Returning to Libya is also not an option, despite the fall of the al-Gaddafi regime, as Libya cannot currently offer a safe haven for refugees. The only solution is for other countries where they would be safe to resettle them. How many are resettled and how quickly this happens depends on the speed and extent with which the international community fulfils its responsibility to them. So far, the international community’s response has been miserably poor, with European countries offering fewer than 800 resettlement places between them in response to a refugee crisis unfolding on Europe’s doorstep. Many of those who fled Libya attempted the dangerous sea-crossing to Europe, often in overcrowded and barely sea-worthy boats. Among them were people who initially fled from Libya to Tunisia, but then crossed back into Libya frustrated at the lack of durable solutions for refugees in the camps. At least 1,500 men, women and children are estimated to have drowned while attempting this journey. The true total was probably far higher. Governments and institutions failed to put in place effective mechanisms to prevent such deaths at sea, including by increasing search and rescue operations, and by ensuring that rescue operations comply fully with human rights and refugee law….”

Click here for Report.

Click here for AI Press Release.


Filed under Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mediterranean, Morocco, Reports, Tunisia, Yemen

AI: Refugees Forced Out of Libya Urgently Need Resettlement

Amnesty International released a briefing paper this morning describing the “totally inadequate response by EU states to refugees” who are stranded near Libya’s borders.  AI estimates that there are 5000 refugees currently living in limbo along the borders.

From the AI Press Release: “‘We have witnessed an abysmal response to the plight of displaced refugees on Europe’s doorstep,’ said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.  ‘This failure is particularly glaring given that some European countries, by participating in NATO operations in Libya, have been party to the very conflict that has been one of the main causes of the involuntary movement of people.  EU Home Affairs Ministers must urgently address the resettlement issue – they can start by putting it prominently on the agenda of the Justice & Home Affairs Council on 22 September.’… Australia, Canada and the USA have offered to resettle some of the refugees stranded at Libya’s borders.  But only eight European countries have offered to help, between them offering fewer than 700 slots. …”  “Amnesty International believes sub-Saharan Africans in Libya remain at high risk of abuse and arbitrary arrest by anti-Gaddafi forces and last week issued a major report calling on the [Libyan] NTC to do more to protect them from reprisal attacks.”

Click here for briefing paper.

Click here for press release.

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Filed under European Union, Libya, Mediterranean, Reports, Tunisia, UNHCR

CoE Report Regarding Accession of EU to ECHR

“The seventh working meeting of the CDDH informal working group on the accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights (CDDH UE) with the European Commission was held in Strasbourg on 10-13 May 2011” and the report of the meeting was released on 16 May.  The meeting report includes a Draft Revised Accession Agreement (see Appendix III in meeting report).  (HT to @echrnews.)

Click here for meeting report.

Click here for link to web page of CoE Informal Group on Accession of the European Union to the Convention (CDDH-UE).

Click here for submission by the AIRE Centre and Amnesty International to the working group.

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Filed under Council of Europe, European Union, News

650 Tunisians Repatriated by Italy Since 6 April

650 Tunisians have been summarily repatriated by Italy to Tunisia under the terms of the Italy-Tunisia agreement which took effect on 5 April.  The agreement reportedly allows Italy to return up to 60 Tunisian nationals per day on two flights.  Amnesty International’s Briefing Paper of 21 April, “Amnesty International findings and recommendations to the Italian authorities following the research visit to Lampedusa and Mineo”, is highly critical of Italy’s expedited return practice.

Click here (EN) and here (IT) for articles.

Click here for AI’s Briefing Paper.

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Filed under Italy, Mediterranean, News, Tunisia

Tunisian Migrant Boats Stop Arriving in Italy (for the time being) – Amnesty Int’l Criticises “Collective Summary Removals”

Italy has been continuing to deport newly arriving Tunisian migrants pursuant to the terms of its new agreement with Tunisia, the terms of which have not been made public.  Under the agreement, Tunisia has apparently agreed to the expedited returns of its nationals from Italy.  300 Tunisians were flown to Tunisia from Italy last week.

The mayor of Lampedusa, Bernardino De Rubeis, declared that the “immigration crisis” on Lampedusa is over (only 27 migrants remain on the island as of 26 April). The mayor called for the 500 extra police and military personnel who were brought to the island to deal with the migrants to leave as soon as possible so that tourists can use the hotel rooms currently occupied by the security personnel.

Amnesty International issued a Briefing Paper on 21 April: “Amnesty International findings and recommendations to the Italian authorities following the research visit to Lampedusa and Mineo.”  Amnesty is highly critical of the expedited return practices that have been implemented by Italy.

Excerpts from the Briefing Paper:

“Collective summary removals, reportedly of Tunisian nationals, from Lampedusa, from 7 April 2011 onwards, following the signing of an agreement between the Italian and Tunisian authorities.

Amnesty International is extremely concerned by the enforced removal that began on 7 April from Lampedusa, following the recent signing of an agreement between the Tunisian and Italian authorities. At the time of writing these forcible returns were ongoing and had reportedly been carried out twice a day by air since 11 April.

On 6 April, the Italian Ministry of Interior announced that Italy had signed an agreement with Tunisia pursuant to which the latter committed itself to strengthening border controls with a view to preventing departures, and to accepting the speedy readmission of people who had recently arrived and who will be arriving in Italy. Amnesty International is particularly concerned that, according to the above-mentioned announcement, Tunisian migrants arriving onto Italian shores may be “repatriated directly” and with “simplified procedures”.

In the light of this announcement, and given, in particular, Amnesty International’s findings in relation to the total inadequacy of asylum procedures on Lampedusa, the organization believes that those people who have been subjected to “direct repatriations” following “simplified procedures” have been victims of collective summary removals.

As far as Amnesty International could ascertain, people have been removed from the island within one or two days of arrival. Thus, it appears highly unlikely that they would have had access to any meaningful or adequate opportunity to assert that they should not be returned to Tunisia on international protection or other grounds. In the circumstances those removals would amount to summary expulsions (cf. the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Hassanpour-Omrani v Sweden and Jabari v Turkey). Such practices are strictly prohibited under international, regional and domestic human rights and refugee law and standards. Additionally human rights and refugee law and standards require that the removing state must provide an effective remedy against removal. Removing people without giving them the chance of exercising their right to challenge their removal through an effective procedure gives rise per se to a human rights violation. This is independent of whether removal would place the individuals concerned at a real risk of serious human rights violations, which, in turn, would constitute a breach of the non-refoulement principle.

Amnesty International calls on the government of Italy to:

  • disclose the agreement reached with the Tunisian authorities;
  • immediately desist from any further summary removals;
  • ensure that anyone arriving on Italian shores is adequately screened to assess any potential protection needs, and that they are provided with adequate information about their right to challenge removal on international protection or other human rights grounds; and
  • ensure access to fair and effective asylum procedures as well as access to procedures to challenge removal on other grounds.”

Click here and here for articles. (IT)

Click here for Amnesty’s Briefing Paper.

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Filed under Italy, Mediterranean, News, Reports, Tunisia

EU and Libya Sign “Unclear” Migration Cooperation Agreement

At the end of a two day visit to Tripoli, 4-5 October, Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, and Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood, signed a “migration cooperation agenda” with Libya.  The European Commission issued a Press Release with details of the negotiations and signed agreement.

The specific contents of the full agreement and negotiations however are not clear.  “‘What worries us is the vagueness of the deal,’ Annelise Baldaccini from Amnesty International told [euobserver.com]. ‘We do not know what the EU has signed up to. It mentions for instance addressing the burden of recognised refugees and rejected asylum seekers, but it does not say what this involves.’”

Here are some excerpts from the Commission press release:

In the framework of the visit an agreement on a migration cooperation agenda was signed yesterday evening in Tripoli by Commissioner Malmström, Commissioner Füle, M. Moussa Koussa, the Secretary of General People’s Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation, and M. Yunis Al-Obeidi, the Secretary of General People’s Committee for Public Security. This is a Cooperation agenda between the European Commission and Libya, including concrete steps on border surveillance system, mobility-related issues, smuggling and trafficking in human beings, and dialogue on refugees and international protection.

Commenting the signature of the Cooperation agenda Commissioner Malmström said: ”It is my objective to put the protection of fundamental rights of all people involved in migratory and asylum flows at the centre of our efforts in the EU relationship with Libya. The Cooperation Agenda will enable us also to promote initiatives aimed at better protecting and assisting the rights of migrants and refugees’.

Commissioner Füle said: “I welcome agreeing on this cooperation agenda because this is an important first step to solve the serious challenge irregular migration poses not only to Libya but also to the EU. This step is part of the much broader relationship we are trying to build together. It was clear from our talks in Tripoli that both EU and Libya have at heart to sustain the new momentum in our relationship over recent months.”

The EU and Libya also discussed the establishment of an informal group of senior officials that would oversee the implementation of the list of possible initiatives in the field of migration cooperation. The proposed initiatives will be implemented through a variety of means, ranging from the sharing of experience and best practices, as well as financing of actions, including the acquisition of equipment in accordance with applicable rules.

Both sides agreed on the following initiatives for possible further dialogue and cooperation.

1. Regional and Pan african dialogue and cooperation

  • Increasing joint efforts in the development of African countries of origin of migration. This would build on the serious and substantial efforts of Libya and the European Union as major donors to African countries. In this context, the EU and Libya will continue to address root causes of migration in the countries of origin of migrants travelling through Libya and creating viable alternatives to migration in these countries.
  • The EU and Libya will support awareness campaigns to take place in main countries of origin of migrants transiting through North Africa and Libya specifically to alert migrants to the dangers of irregular migration.
  • Libya and the EU will work together in the implementation of the “Declaration of Tripoli on Migration and Development” of 2006, and the EU-Africa Migration, Mobility and Employment Partnership adopted in Lisbon in 2007.
  • Libya and the EU will increase dialogue and exchange information regarding the issue of smuggling of human beings and related illicit traffics reaching Libya from other countries and the EU from Libya.
  • Libya and the EU will also establish an informal consultative group that will exchange information on development policies benefitting Africa, and possibly also to identify development projects in sub Saharan Africa. This group will be composed by the Libyan administration, by the representatives of the European Commission and of the EU member States which are willing to participate.


3. Ensuring effective management of migratory flows

  • Supporting the development in Libya of a more efficient system to manage labour migration. This could be done by allowing to maximise the skills of the migrants already present in the country and of the newcomers.
  • Enhancing the capacities of Libyan authorities, Libyan NGOs and international organisations, to properly launch and implement search and rescue operations aimed at saving lives of migrants in the desert or on high seas and to provide them with the necessary humanitarian assistance.
  • Providing decent treatment, reception and assistance – in line with international standards – to irregular migrants intercepted or readmitted or to be returned by Libyan authorities, or stranded in Libya, with focus on migrants belonging to vulnerable categories (like unaccompanied minors, victims of trafficking; pregnant women, and families with small children). This could build on the activities already carried out in Libya by the local authorities, international organisations and NGOs.
  • Offering assisted voluntary return home to irregular migrants intercepted or readmitted or to be returned by Libyan authorities, or stranded in Libya or in the countries of origin, as well as offer support for their social and professional reintegration.
  • Enhancing the capacity to address smuggling and trafficking in human beings, with reference in particular to the two respective protocols of the 2000 UN Convention on the Trans-national organised Crime, and in view of reinforcing the capabilities of law enforcement officials in charge of the implementation of this legislation, by taking also into the account the Ouagadougou Action Plan to combat Trafficking in Human Beings.

4. Border management

  • Carrying out a gap-analysis on the current functioning modalities of the Libyan border and immigration services, aimed at reinforcing the capacity of the latter to prevent the irregular migration flows from entering Libya from its Southern borders.
  • Strengthening cooperation between Libya and the neighbouring and other transit and origin countries, in the border surveillance and in the prevention of attempts of irregular migrants and smugglers to violate Libyan borders, through promoting joint patrolling, intelligence sharing, the development of joint training, the facilitation of working contacts and the establishment of dedicated communication channels aimed at transmitting early warnings and sensible data.
  • Supporting the development of Libyan patrolling, search and rescue capacities in its territorial waters and at high sea. Delimiting the search and rescue region for which it Libya is responsible, pursuant to the SAR Convention it has ratified.
  • Establishment of an integrated surveillance system along the Libyan land borders, with focus on the areas prone to irregular migration flows, in line with the Memorandum of Understanding agreed between Libya and the European Commission on 23 July 2007.
  • Exploring concrete possibilities of cooperation between Libyan police, border, migration authorities and agencies and those of the EU Member States as regards the return and readmission of irregular migrants.

5. International Protection

  • Supporting Libya in its efforts aimed at establishing a protection system able to deal with asylum seekers and refugees in line with international standards and in good cooperation with the competent international organisation , in particular through providing advice on the development of a legislation in line with the 1969 African Union Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa as well as providing training, technical assistance and equipment in view of promoting the development of administrative structures and human resources, able to properly act in line with this legislation
  • Assisting Libyan authorities in screening migrants in order to identify those in need of international protection and in addressing the burden represented both by the recognized refugees and the unsuccessful asylum seekers, and which would consist in resettling some of the recognized refugees towards EU Member States, in supporting the voluntary return of some of the unsuccessful asylum seekers back to their origin country, as well as in enhancing the reception capacities offered in Libya to asylum seekers and refugees.

Click here for full European Commission Press Release.

Click here, here, and here for articles.


Filed under European Union, Libya, Mediterranean, News

ECRE and AI Joint Briefing on Commission Proposal to Amend Frontex Regulation

On 21 September ECRE and Amnesty International released a 30+ page joint briefing on the 24 February 2010 European Commission “Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL amending Council Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004 establishing a European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (FRONTEX),” COM(2010) 61 final.

The joint briefing presents detailed views on the proposal and makes numerous specific recommendations for possible amendments.  I have not had time to read the full briefing closely, but here are several excerpts from the Summary:

“1. Role and responsibilities of Frontex vis-à-vis Member States –  [***] Amnesty International and ECRE recommend that Frontex be subject to full accountability by the enhancement of democratic oversight of the Agency before the European Parliament, in addition to judicial oversight by the European Courts for legal protection against unlawful actions, and by effective implementation of the requirement to give access to prompt, objective and reliable information on its activities. In particular, accountability should be enhanced by providing for the following: 1) Relevant information, including risk analysis, should be transmitted to the European Parliament to enable adequate scrutiny of Frontex activities; 2) Independent observation should be enabled at the meetings of the Management Board; 3) Frontex programme of work should be subject to public consultation. [***]

2. The legal framework governing Frontex –  The proposal clarifies the legal framework of Frontex operations by stating explicitly that its activities are subject to the Schengen Borders Code and should be undertaken in accordance to relevant international and EU law, obligations related to international protection and fundamental rights. Sea border surveillance activities fall within the remit of the Schengen Borders Code, even if implemented in the high seas, and as such must be conducted without prejudice of the rights of refugees and other persons demanding international protection. The Council Decision setting out rules which apply to join sea operations further clarifies that all aspects of these operations, including interception and disembarkation, are subject to international obligations arising from refugee and human rights law.

While meant to deal with Member States’ disputes over responsibility, the Council Decision also includes non-binding guidelines, which must form part of the operational plan drawn up for each Frontex operation and state modalities for disembarkation of persons intercepted or rescued. Yet, these are not detailed enough to ensure that sea operations will meet the requisite standards.

Amnesty International and ECRE recommend that the new Frontex Regulation includes an explicit requirement that the rules for interception at sea operations be formalized in the operational plan. Moreover, they should be accompanied with detailed measures to ensure that disembarkation meets the requisite standards, in particular by specifying the place of disembarkation and as regards the provision of food, shelter and medical care, as well as access to asylum and protection from refoulement.

Although the extent of the extraterritorial application of the EU acquis remains to be determined, Member States intercepting individuals beyond their territorial waters cannot operate in a legal vacuum. In addition, when border surveillance activities take place in the territorial waters of a third country, Member States and Frontex appear to attribute responsibility for any possible human rights breaches to the third country concerned. Adequate measures must also be in place to ensure that those involved in joint operations are able to guarantee refugee and human rights protections in a practical way, both when they act within a territory or territorial waters, as well as extraterritorially Amnesty International and ECRE recommend that the proposal sets out the concrete measures by which States can effectively meet their obligations, when these are engaged both territorially and extraterritorially. These should include at a minimum the following: 1) Individuals have the possibility of explaining their circumstances during a personal interview; 2) Those who wish to apply for asylum are helped to access the asylum procedure, including through interpretation and independent legal advice. International cooperation should never be construed as releasing EU Member States from fundamental rights obligations in relation to those intercepted or diverted in the territorial sea of the third state in question. [***]”

Click here for the Joint Briefing.

Click here for the Proposed Amendment to the Regulation.

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Filed under Analysis, Communiqués, European Union, Frontex, News

Amnesty Int’l Report on Libya Criticises Libya and EU on Refugee Treatment

Amnesty International has released a comprehensive report on Libya entitled “Libya of Tomorrow – What Hope for Human Rights?”  The report covers a range of matters including the criminal justice system and the use of the death penalty.   Section 5 of the report (beginning at p 91) addresses the rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants.  The report was finalised before the recent decision of the Libyan government to close the UNHCR office in Tripoli.

In regard to refugee issues, Amnesty is very critical of both Libya and the EU and calls upon EU member states to “ensure that any bilateral agreements with Libya in the area of migration and asylum, including the EU-Libya Framework Agreement currently being negotiated, are based on full respect for the rights of asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants.”

Excerpts from Section 5, “Rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants”:

Members of the EU have been actively seeking the collaboration of Libya in controlling the flow of migrants to European shores – turning a blind eye to Libya’s dire human rights record, the absence of a functioning asylum system in Libya, and persistent reports of the abuse and ill-treatment of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants.  The Treaty of Friendship, Partnership and Co-operation signed in August 2008 between Italy and Libya includes provisions for bilateral efforts to combat “illegal migration”, facilitated by the joint patrolling of the sea agreed upon in December 2007 in the “Protocol” and the “Additional Technical-Operational” Protocol”.

As part of the agreements, Italy promised to compensate Libya for its occupation of the country between 1911 and 1943. The Treaty of Friendship, Partnership and Co-operation involves a US$5bn package for construction projects, [and other items].  In return, Libya agreed, among other things, to tighten control of its territorial waters and accept disembarkation on its soil of individuals intercepted at sea by Italian vessels. Italy was also reported to have undertaken to provide resources, including technology, to control migrant flows through the southern borders of Libya. In fact, Italy has provided Libya with six motor patrol boats since the Treaty entered into force.

In the framework of these agreements, from May 2009 onwards Italy started returning refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants intercepted in international waters to Libya. On 6 May 2009, distress calls were sent from three vessels with an estimated 230 third-country nationals on board. Italian coastguard vessels intervened but transported the individuals to Tripoli, without stopping in an Italian port and without checking whether any individuals on board were in need of international protection or basic humanitarian assistance. Further interceptions and returns occurred in the subsequent months: according to official information from the Italian Ambassador to Libya, between 6 May and 3 September 2009, over 1,000 individuals were returned to Libya. They included nationals from Eritrea, Somalia and other sub-Saharan African countries. The Italian Minister of the Interior Roberto Maroni was reported to have called this action “an historic achievement after one year of bilateral negotiations with Libya”….

Despite these pleas by UNHCR and consistent reports of abuses suffered by refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in Libya, the Italian authorities continue to intercept vessels at sea and send them back to other countries most notably Libya.  In January 2010, Italian Minister of the Interior Roberto Maroni stated that the number of migrants arriving to Italian shores was reduced by 74 per cent in 2009 compared to 2008, attributing the reduction to Italy’s bilateral agreements with Libya.

Italy is not alone in seeking Libya’s cooperation to control the flow of migrants to European shores. Negotiations between Libya and the EU over a Framework Agreement started in November 2008 covering the control of migration, among other issues, including potential readmission agreements for third-country nationals who have transited through Libya on their way to Europe….

UNHCR [prior to its recent expulsion from Libya] and its partners have also been involved in screening individuals pushed back to Libya from Italy. UNHCR declared that by October 2009, it had been able to screen 890 people and had registered 206 of them as refugees and secured their release from detention.  UNCHR also registered 80 individuals pushed back from Italy in November 2009, granting 40 of them refugee status. The remainder were awaiting their interviews for refugee status determination at the time of writing. UNHCR confirmed that a total of 685 individuals determined to be refugees or asylum-seekers were released from detention from 2008 to February 2010, including 450 Eritreans and 150 Somalis…..

Click here for the Report.

Click here for AI Press Release regarding the Report.

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Filed under European Union, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, Reports, UNHCR

More on Libya’s Decision to Expel UNHCR

Libya’s decision to expel the UNHCR from Libya was made public during the seventh round of Framework Agreement talks between the EU and Libya.  The talks concluded yesterday in Tripoli.  “[Libya’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Tahar] Sayala said the main stumbling blocks to progress were illegal immigration and the International Criminal Court (ICC), which Libya does not recognise.  [Sayala] said Libya wanted financing and equipment [from the EU] for the surveillance of its borders, both on land and sea.”

Amnesty International criticized the decision to expel the UNHCR and called on Libya to reverse the decision:

“[***] The move to expel the UNHCR came against the backdrop of the 7th round of negotiations, which started on 6 June in Tripoli, between Libya and the EU over a Framework Agreement, which addresses bilateral cooperation in the control of irregular migration, among other issues, including potential readmission agreements for third-country nationals, who have transited through Libya on their way to Europe. EU member states, most notably Italy, have been seeking Libya’s assistance in decreasing the flow of arrivals of asylum-seekers and migrants to European shores. The expulsion of the UNHCR further casts doubt on Libya’s commitment to respect its obligations under the Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. It also shows how essential it is to include effective human rights safeguards and adequate standards of protection in any bilateral agreements with Libya in the field of the control of migration. [***]”

The European Commission also expressed “concern” with Libya’s decision “but sees it as one more reason to engage in ‘dialogue’ with General Gaddafi’s country on immigration and asylum.”

And as noted by Michèle Morel on International Law Observer, even though Libya is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, Libya is bound by customary international law which prohibits refoulement to countries where there is a risk of torture, “[t]herefore, while Libya itself has no asylum system for the examination of asylum seekers’ situations, refusing to allow UNHCR to carry out its activities in Libya would amount to a violation of international human rights law.”

Click here, here, here (EN), and here (AR) for articles.

Click here for Amnesty International’s statement.

Click here for link to ILO post.


Filed under European Union, Libya, Mediterranean, News, UNHCR

NGOs Urge EU to Respect Refugee Rights

ECRE, CEAR, and Amnesty International have released a joint statement urging EU governments to respect refugee rights as efforts are made to strengthen Frontex.

“Bjarte Vandvik, ECRE Secretary General said: ‘States have a legitimate right to control their borders, but this is not an excuse to ignore the fact that persons fleeing war or persecution are entitled to protection under international, European and national laws. As Frontex is being strengthened, its operations need to be monitored to ensure that human rights are respected’.”

“Regardless of where border controls take place and of who implements them, methods to prevent unauthorized entry must leave room for the identification of persons in need of international protection so they are not returned to any country where they will face persecution. Member States’ obligations under international and European refugee and human rights law do not stop at the physical boundaries of the EU. This responsibility is not only moral and political but also legal. EU Member States cannot abdicate their principles, values and commitments by doing outside their borders what would not be permissible in their territories.”

Click here for full statement.

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Filed under Aegean Sea, Eastern Atlantic, European Union, Frontex, Mediterranean, Statements