Global human rights organization Amnesty International is again pressuring European Union nations to change its policies on migration from Libya, where thousands of refugees and migrants are trapped in shocking conditions.
That message comes as EU officials said Wednesday that the central Mediterranean transit numbers remain much lower, but the eastern route – essentially sealed off with the €6 billion EU-Turkey agreement in 2016 – is seeing a spike in traffic and may warrant more engagement.
Amnesty said Europe is complicit in the torture, extortion and other abuses that routinely occur in detention camps. At least 2,600 people have been transferred to those camps in the past two months as Libyan patrols at sea, supported by EU states, prevent them from crossing the Mediterranean and return them to Libya.
“The EU is turning a blind eye to the suffering caused by its callous immigration policies that outsource border control to Libya,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director. “No one should be sending anyone back to Libya.”
A total of 7,000 migrants and refugees are in the centers, but estimates on the total number in Libya run vastly higher. Doctors Without Borders released a statement Monday that said up to 700,000 migrants and refugees are in transit through the unstable North African nation.
The EU must stop using the Libyan Coast Guard to contain people in Libya, and instead work to close detention centers, resettle refugees in Europe, and enable UNHCR to assist all refugees across Libya, Amnesty said.
An EU Commission report on Wednesday said that migration is rising again along the Turkey-Greece route, with increased movement through Albania, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“The European Border and Coast Guard Agency is presently supporting national border guards with around 1,350 deployed experts along all migratory routes,” the EU said. “In view of the increased migratory pressure, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency stands ready to reinforce its presence on the land border between Greece and Turkey.”
The agency has offered to triple its deployments at the Greek land borders with Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and complete agreements with Western Balkan countries that will allow the agency to “assist them directly in managing their borders when needed.”
Image: Doctors Without Borders/Guillaume Binet