| May 6, 2022
EU under fire for ill-treatment of refugees and migrants in the Central Mediterranean
Since the submission of our joint Article 15 Communication (the Communication) to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in November 2021, and the publication of the accompanying public report on the crimes committed against refugees and migrants in Libya that may amount to crimes against humanity, our main focus has been conducting related advocacy and awareness raising activities in close coordination with our partner organisations ECCHR and FIDH.
Since our last update, an episode of the Civil Fleet Podcast featuring Senior Programmes Officer Elise Flecher, was released. She discusses, along with a colleague from ECCHR, the many reasons behind the submission to the ICC.
In December 2021, LFJL also contributed to a side event at the Assembly of State Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute of the ICC. Marwa Mohamed, Head of Advocacy and Outreach at LFJL, sat on the panel at the event which drew attention to the widespread and systematic criminal conduct against refugees and migrants and highlighted why the ICC has jurisdiction to investigate.
LFJL has also been in bilateral communication with the Office of the Prosecutor and continues to call for and support the opening of an investigation by the ICC into the crimes committed against refugees and migrants in Libya and at sea. In his latest report to the United Nations (UN) Security Council, Prosecutor of the ICC Karim Khan, stated that the Communication and supplementary consultation with the filing organisations had been beneficial to his Office’s line of inquiry in regards to crimes against migrants.
The Communication and accompanying report also helped to aid a question-and-answer session in Dutch Parliament forcing a self-examination into Dutch policies that could be contributing to such crimes. Dutch Parliament has yet to publish the answers to the inquiries presented.
We have also been in regular communication with the UN Fact-Finding Mission, whose latest report in March 2022 continues to highlight the ongoing crimes committed against refugees and migrants in Libya. Our advocacy has also included bilateral meetings with several other relevant stakeholders, including the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons.
A vital opportunity for leaders to address the desperate situation of refugees and migrants in Libya, the European Union (EU) – African Union (AU) summit in February was at the centre of campaign by LFJL for the reform of harmful European policies on migration flows from Libya. As part of the campaign, LFJL published an article on Europe’s potential complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes and provided recommendations for the implementation of a human rights-based response.
In March 2022, LFJL staff conducted a joint advocacy mission to Brussels alongside colleagues from ECCHR and FIDH to highlight concerns and continue conversations at the EU level around problematic policies.
Overall, pushbacks in the Central Mediterranean are continuing at an alarming rate. According to IOM data, almost 4,500 vulnerable people have been intercepted at sea and returned to Libya so far this year, and 550 are known to be dead or missing.
However, there have been some positive developments. In March, the German government announced it will no longer provide training to Libya’s coast guard because of concerns about their treatment of migrants. In another small step towards accountability, the Director of the EU border agency, Frontex, resigned in April amid mounting evidence of involvement by the agency in illegal pushbacks of refugees and migrants to Libya. The resignation signals the increasing lack of tolerance for European pushback practices and may herald real accountability for international law violations by the EU as well as human rights-positive change to EU policy and practice.
LFJL continues to call for the ending of interception at sea and return to Libya and encourages the EU and its member states to suspend agreements and cooperation with the Libyan authorities around migration until they provide sufficient guarantees to ensure that the human rights of refugees and migrants are protected.
Protecting the rights, lives and safety of refugees and migrants remains a priority for LFJL. We will continue our work to support survivors who have travelled through Libya, to advocate for the full respect of migrant and refugee rights by Libyan and European authorities, to call for investigations into the crimes committed against them, and to improve their access to justice and accountability.
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