Libya: European countries ‘complicit’ in horrific abuse of refugees and migrants

Kate Allen

European governments are knowingly “complicit” in the torture and exploitation of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by the Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions, Amnesty International has said in a new report.

In a 66-page report - Libya’s dark web of collusion - Amnesty shows how European governments are actively supporting a system of abuse of refugees and migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard, the detention authorities in Libyan and smugglers operating in the country.

The charity accused the EU of being unconcerned with the fate of thousands of vulnerable people while prioritising the blocking of those risking their lives to reach European countries.

Amnesty’s report shows the Libyan Coast Guard - with the support of EU countries and even an Italian-donated boat - have intercepted refugees and migrants at sea, returning them to detention centres run by the country’s Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM).

In March 2017, a review by the UK Independent Commission for Aid Impact expressed concern that the UK’s capacity-building programme with the Libyan Coast Guard was “deliver migrants back to a system that leads to indiscriminate and indefinite detention and denies refugees their right to asylum.”

The body also concluded that the risk of UK aid causing unintended harm to vulnerable migrants, or preventing refugees from reaching a place of safety, had been inadequately assessed.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s director, said: “Ministers have been warned time and time again that the UK’s funding of the Libyan Coast Guard means the UK is supporting the depraved abuse and exploitation of thousands of refugees and migrants in Libya.

“Why are we still giving money to a coast guard with such a glaring record of abuses?

“The UK must ensure that any continued support for the coast guard comes with guarantees for the safety of people intercepted by that body, and for so long as those guarantees cannot be made then funding must be suspended.”