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EU sticks to Libya strategy on migrants, despite human rights concerns

After more than two years struggling to stem the flow of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa, the EU is now showing signs of optimism that it is finally in control.

FILE PHOTO: Migrants are seen at the centre of the Anti-Illegal Immigration Authority in Tripoli, Libya September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Hani Amara/File Photo

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BRUSSELS  – The European Union is determined to go on preventing migrants setting off from the coast of Libya, interior ministers said on Thursday, despite criticism from rights advocates who say the strategy is aggravating human suffering.

After more than two years struggling to stem the flow of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa, the EU is now showing signs of optimism that it is finally in control.

A 2016 deal with Turkey effectively closed one major migratory route and this year Italy has led the EU’s efforts to curb sea crossings from Libya, supplying money, equipment and training for Libya’s border and coast guard, and striking deals with local groups in control on the ground in a country still largely lawless after the 2011 death of Muammar Gaddafi.

Mediterranean crossings have dropped from nearly 28,000 people in June to below 10,000 in August, according to U.N. data. Sources told Reuters late last month a new armed group on Libya’s coast was stopping migrant boats from leaving.

Image result for Libya’s coast was stopping migrant boats from leaving

Armed group on Libya’s coast was stopping migrant boats from leaving.

Human rights groups decry the EU’s support for Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez Seraj and allied militias who run migrant detention centers they have compared to concentration camps.

The top U.N. human rights official said the EU strategy was “very thin on the protection of the human rights of migrants inside Libya and on the boats, and silent on the urgent need for alternatives to the arbitrary detention of vulnerable people.”

To offset that, the bloc has stepped up financing for the U.N. agencies for migration (IOM) and refugees (UNHCR) to have them try to improve conditions for migrants inside Libya.

“We also need to redouble our efforts to provide assistance to the migrants stranded in Libya and …. exposed to unacceptable, inhumane treatment and human rights violations,” EU’s migration chief, Dimitris Avramopoulos, told journalists.

But the EU is not changing tack on keeping them there.

“If we look at the flows of migrants across the Mediterranean a few months ago and now, the decrease in illegal migration has been big in numbers,” Estonia’s Interior Minister Andres Anvelt said ahead of talks in Brussels with his EU peers.

“We’ll have a discussion about how to have this success story going on.”

Image result for Migrants are seen at the centre of the Anti-Illegal Immigration Authority in Tripoli, Libya September 10, 2017.

FILE PHOTO: Migrants are seen at the centre of the Anti-Illegal Immigration Authority in Tripoli, Libya September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Hani Amara/File Photo

Avramopoulos said the bloc’s executive European Commission backed a U.N. call to resettle a further 40,000 refugees from Libya, Egypt, Niger, Ethiopia and Sudan, an effort to offer legal ways into the EU instead of smuggling or trafficking.

“TRUST IN ITALY”

Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters: “I‘m happy that the number of people sent across the Mediterranean by the smugglers to Italy has really fallen in the last two months … These developments need to be carried on.”

“We really need to work to ensure that many people simply do not make the trip across the desert to Libya. The neighborhood policy with Africa is very important for a sustainable decline in migrants coming to Italy.”

Struggling to come up with a plan, the EU has increasingly let Libya’s former colonial power Italy take the lead.

Image result for Interior Minister Marco Minniti

File Photo : Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti speaks during a press conference after a security meeting.

Interior Minister Marco Minniti has sponsored those efforts, curbing the sea operations of non-governmental aid groups and striking deals with Libyan mayors to fight people-trafficking, among other moves.

Rome has also played a central role in training the Libyan coast guard, which has been accused of abuses, including shooting at aid workers trying to rescue migrants.

The EU has denied that any of its funding goes to the militia in the coastal city of Sabratha, which has often prevented migrants from departing for Europe by locking them up.

But a senior EU diplomat said the EU’s strategy was complex.

“It is hard to know exactly what is going on in Libya. We have increasingly entrusted Italy with doing the job there, we give them money. There would never be any proof of EU money going directly to some armed group somewhere,” the person said.

“Some of the methods may seem controversial. But there is also preventing loss of life at the sea and political stability in Italy to consider. We shouldn’t be too judgmental.”

Source : Reuters

Middle East

UN appeals for countries to take in 1,300 Libyan refugees

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Libyan refugees

The UN has appealed to countries worldwide to take in 1,300 mainly African refugees stranded in Libya. Many of them were mistreated while being detained appalling conditions.

Niger has agreed to temporarily host the most vulnerable of the evacuees, including unaccompanied children and single mothers, pending their processing and departure for resettlement, Reuters said.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Monday that it “urgently requests 1,300 places for resettlement” to be made available by the end of March. The UNHCR intends to evacuate between 700 and 1,300 people from Libya to Niger by the end of January 2018.

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Middle East

‘Don’t buy from Arabs’, says Israeli Defense Minister

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Avigdor Lieberman

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has called on his fellow citizens to boycott the Palestinian market of the Wadi Ara region of north-east Israel, after riots broke out there on Saturday over the American decision to move their embassy to Jerusalem.

Three people were injured when protesters began hurling stones at a bus. “I am calling for a boycott of Wadi Ara. Don’t go there and don’t buy there. They need to understand that it is impossible to demonstrate with Hezbollah flags, Palestinian flags and pictures of [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah.

To accept billions from the National Insurance [Institute] and to also destroy us from within,” Haaretz quoted Lieberman telling Army Radio.

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Middle East

Hamas leader calls for ‘new intifada in the face of Israel’

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Ismail Haniyeh

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has called for a new uprising against Israel following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as capital of the Jewish state.

“We should call for and we should work on launching an intifada in the face of the Zionist enemy,” said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, in a speech in Gaza Thursday, Reuters reports.

Anti-US protests erupted almost immediately after Trump’s declaration Wednesday, with Palestinians first to take to the streets, calling for three days of rage against the move.

World leaders expressed serious concern over the decision and its potential to destabilize the region.

The decision has been welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who thanked Trump, and said he be believes “many” other nations will follow suit in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Pope Francis said he could not “remain silent” and spoke of his “great anxiety” surrounding the decision, while the EU voiced “serious concern.”

“I cannot remain silent about my deep concern for the situation that has developed in recent days,”Francis said at his weekly general audience at the Vatican.

“Jerusalem is a unique city,” he added, “sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, where the Holy Places for the respective religions are venerated, and it has a special vocation to peace.”

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