Jesuit Refugee Service calls for protection as priority in EU-Libya agreement

Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Europe says EU-Libya agreement must emphasise urgent need for protection of migrants and asylum seekers.

The Jesuit Refugee Service has called on the EU to ensure asylum seekers are given the utmost protection in its agreement with Libya on the repatriation of migrants.

At a meeting in Mount St Joseph Retreat House in Mosta, Malta, directors from JRS offices around Europe confirmed their deep conviction that, unless and until Libya and other countries of transit are truly able and willing to provide effective protection, asylum seekers must urgently be given access to procedures and protection in Europe.

“It’s not long ago that Tripoli expelled the UN High Commissioner for Refugees,” said Michael Schoepf, Regional Director of JRS Europe.

“Persons in urgent need of protection now have nowhere to turn to, as Libya has no national system in place to identify and provide protection to those who need it. Just as worrying are the consistent reports of harsh treatment and severe abuse of migrants caught staying in the country illegally or trying to leave without the necessary permission. Their needs must be given priority by the EU Commission.”

Fr Joseph Cassar, director of JRS Malta, said: “Otherwise we violate core European and Christian values. Border management must never block access to a fair refugee recognition procedure.”

The number of asylum seekers arriving in Malta has decreased to a trickle over the past months, prompting calls for increased border controls to ensure that arrivals are kept to a minimum.

“But even if Malta had difficulties in dealing with protection seekers, closing European borders is the wrong answer,” Michael Schoepf said.

“Border control must never be at the cost of human rights. Instead we invite the Maltese government to join efforts to change the EU legal framework. The Dublin II regulation must be amended in order to ensure more solidarity among Member States so that other countries accept more asylum seekers who have come to Europe via Malta.”

The meeting of the JRS in Europe will end on Sunday morning.

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If the JRS wants to protect illegal immigrants then they can go to Libya and protect them there. The EU said that Libya had signed the African Declaration on Human Rights which was enough and there was no need to sign the European or other Conventions.