| Aug 14, 2023
LFJL marks World Refugee Day days after tragic loss of life in the Mediterranean
On World Refugee Day (20 June 2023), LFJL called out the violent policies of European states and the European Union (EU) that continue to contribute to the deaths of migrants and refugees, at sea and in Libya. This came just days after one of the most fatal shipwrecks in the Mediterranean in recent years, where a boat carrying migrants and refugees departing from Tobruk, Eastern Libya capsized within Greek waters. It was reported that more than 80 people died and an estimated 500 people are still missing or presumed to have died. The lack of safe and legal passage to Europe continues to force migrants and refugees to make deadly journeys in search of refuge.
Without adequate accountability measures, the ‘Fortress Europe’ policies upheld by the EU continue to create a hostile environment, where violence towards migrants, refugees, and NGOs that support them is normalised and even legitimised. In July, the Libyan coastguard fired shots during rescue missions conducted by SOS Mediterranée. These shots were reportedly fired from a Libyan coastguard vessel provided by the EU, once again highlighting European involvement in violence towards migrants, refugees and additionally rescue workers.
Moving towards accountability and justice
In May, the International Crime Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan briefed the UN Security Council on his office’s investigations in Libya. Prosecutor Khan highlighted the issuance of four new arrest warrants for Libya that remain under seal while two additional arrest warrants are currently under review against suspects allegedly involved in committing international crimes in Libya. Whilst the new arrest warrants signify a key turning point for accountability in Libya, arrest warrants alone do not equate to justice. Concrete steps must be taken to bring the accused to trial before the ICC.
Prosecutor Khan also emphasized the ICC’s support for national prosecutions of crimes against migrants and refugees within Dutch courts, as mentioned in our previous project update. LFJL continues to urge the ICC and national prosecutors to strengthen their efforts on crimes against humanity prosecutions as smuggling and human trafficking charges alone do not capture the gravity of the crimes committed, as documented by the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission (FFM). The ICC while continuing to support domestic prosecutions by third states must urgently open its own investigation into these crimes and take the necessary steps to prosecute those most responsible and uphold the rights of the victims. To advocate this, the LFJL team undertook a mission to The Hague in June to attend the annual ICC-NGO roundtables convened by the Coalition for the International Criminal Court to strengthen the dialogue between civil society voices and ICC Principals and officials.
Ongoing advocacy efforts
In April, LFJL submitted information on homelessness of migrants and refugees in Libya to the Special Rapporteur (SR) on contemporary forms of slavery. These findings illustrated the link between homelessness and contemporary forms of slavery – a nexus of particular interest to the SR on contemporary forms of slavery ahead of his report to the 54th session of the Human Rights Council. LFJL found migrants and refugees in Libya to be particularly vulnerable due to their lack of access to fundamental freedoms and protections. Through providing relevant inputs to Special Rapporteur’s reports such as this, LFJL aims to amplify its recommendations to the international community, draw the attention of relevant international actors to the Libya situation and drive them to take action. In a welcome development, in May 2023 a group of six UN experts, including the SR on contemporary forms of slavery, issued a communication to the Libyan authorities expressing their concern over breaches of international law, including international human rights law and international criminal law, in relation to the trafficking, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of migrants and refugees in Libya.
In July, LFJL joined Refugees in Libya and many other organisations and activists for a demonstration in Brussels in solidarity with migrants and refugees trapped in Libya and impacted by violent EU border policies. This demonstration was mobilised in response to the EU Council summit, which was happening in the same week and where migration was a key agenda item. In this dynamic weekend of solidarity, members of the LFJL team met with survivors and different organisations and activists dedicated to supporting migrants and refugees in Libya.
Also in July, LFJL submitted, jointly with other civil society organisations, information to Members of the European Parliament ahead of an Exchange of Views on Migration Cooperation with Libya. The organisations highlighted alarming developments in the east of Libya, including in relation to a meeting between Khalifa Haftar and Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni.
What is deeply clear from recent news is that justice and accountability for violations and crimes against migrants and refugees is more necessary than ever. LFJL will continue to collaborate with and support organisations and grassroots movements that have access to migrants and refugees inside Libya, such as Refugees in Libya. LFJL will also continue to monitor and advocate for the opening of an investigation into the international crimes committed against migrants and refugees by the ICC and domestic prosecutors. And we are also exploring ways to urge the UNHCR to intervene in a number of specific cases of arbitrary detention.
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