Human rights groups want EU to limit cooperation with Libyan coast guard

Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have called for a temporary agreement between EU states that outlines where rescued migrants should disembark and how they should be relocated

Human rights groups want NGO rescue ships to operate unhindered in waters off Libya
Human rights groups want NGO rescue ships to operate unhindered in waters off Libya

Human rights groups are calling on the EU to limit its cooperation with the Libyan coast guard because of the manner in which rescued migrants are treated.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said the Libyan coast guard was not treating migrants humanely and returning them to detention centres in Libya where abuse was rife.

The call forms part of a 20-point action plan published on Wednesday by the two groups ahead of a meeting of EU home affairs ministers.

Amnesty and Human Rights Watch are calling for a temporary EU agreement between willing member states to determine what happens to rescued migrants. This agreement would avoid a ship-by-ship solution that was leaving rescue vessels stranded at sea and migrants trapped in abusive detention centres in Libya.

The organisations said the EU should ask the Libyan coast guard to limit their search and rescue activities to Libyan waters except when their vessels are able most quickly to respond to a vessel in distress in international waters.

The groups also called for search and rescue operations by civilian vessels to be allowed unhindered close to Libya.

“Refugees and migrants interviewed in Tunisia last month confirmed that people intercepted at sea by the EU-backed Libyan Coast Guard continue to be returned to detention centres in Libya where torture is widespread… European governments are well aware of the killings, beatings, rapes and exploitation that take place in Libyan detention centres,” Matteo de Bellis, Migration Researcher at Amnesty International, said.

He insisted that if the EU wanted to stop being complicit in these atrocities it “must work with the Libyan authorities to ensure the release of the thousands currently held and offer resettlement places to those of them who qualify for it”.
The organisations are calling for the Libyan detention centres to be closed for good.

EU countries have consistently acted to block the arrival of seaborne refugees and migrants by refusing entry to NGO vessels that rescue migrants at sea.

The EU supports the Libyan coast guard which intercepts people at sea and forces them back to Libya.

The situation has seen several flare-ups between Malta and Italy over the past months over which country should take in rescued migrants.

Solutions for disembarkation and relocation have been found on a case-by-case basis, often leaving migrants stranded aboard NGO vessels for days and weeks.

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