The International Centre for Relations & Diplomacy (ICRD) has published a briefing entitled The Libyan Migration Crisis.
This paper provides an overview of the experiences of migrants who transit through Libya and who are held in detention. It examines the policies of third party states that aim to tackle the migration crisis (so-called due to the sheer extent of migrants who travel through Libya) and how these policies could be improved to ensure they are doing no harm to those they affect.
The Libyan Migration route is one of the busiest migration routes leading to Europe, culminating in a ‘refugee crisis’ for the continent.
The route is a perilous feat with many deaths reported at sea. The UNHCR has reported 14,557 deaths from sea crossings between Libya and Italy over a five-year period between 2012 and 2017.
In addition land crossings are riddled with danger and there are at least 704,142 recorded within Libya.
Irregular migrants have experienced sexual violence, slave labour, torture, unlawful killings and appalling detention conditions, which can lead to infection and disease.
The stakes of this type of migration has guided to states to intervene. Interventions are complicated by the mixed nature of migration – some may be fleeing economic hardship while others are fleeing political persecution and conflict. The country is also still in conflict and the lack of stability makes the rule of law difficult to uphold.
Despite this, state responses need to be aware that Libya does not recognise the right to asylum and is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol. It therefore, does not observe international requirements for the treatment of refugees.
Notable efforts have been made by the international community such as tripartite cooperation between the Libyan government, the EU and African Union (AU) to manage the crisis and the Libyan government is working with the IOM toward better migration policies. There are also efforts to help mediate between conflict parties within the country and to implement stabilisation programmes.
However, a major initiative by states is to implement repatriation programmes, which may not take due consideration of the situation returned migrants and potential refugees may face when going home.
Furthermore, certain European states have exercised or supported a’ policy of turning back boats travelling from Libya in the Mediterranean Sea and before they reach Europe. This is delivering migrants and potential refugees to a country, which according to the UN, cannot be considered safe. The broad approach from Europe is to keep migrants out of Europe rather than keeping them safe. This is not an effective migration policy, which should be looking at root causes for irregular migration.
ICRD proposes the following recommendations:
- End all policies that involve sending migrants to Libya.
- Screen all migrants before returning them to their country of origin (and Libya) to ensure they don’t require international protection.
- Resettle screened migrants needing international protection immediately, ensuring adequate resources are provided to do this.
- Provide other safe or legal pathways for people to leave their country.
- Influence Libya to sign the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol and to allow UNHCR to provide open facilities.
- Ensure Libya’s detention facilities are subject to sufficient monitoring against human rights abuses.
- Continue stabilisation efforts through capacity building and diplomacy and encouraging a more inclusive approach to talks.