Euro-Med: Migrant Rights Violated in Libya

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“The basic rights of migrants and asylum seekers in Libya are gravely violated, affecting their lives and their physical and psychological integrity because of the practices of authorities in both the east and west of the country,” a report published by the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said on Wednesday.

It added such practices include the Libyan Coast Guard’s violent interception methods to return migrants, and the inhumane conditions in the prisons and detention centers run by the Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration.

Migrants face intolerable conditions that push them to escape their countries by any means, including paying large sums of money to brokers, smugglers, or gangs that constantly put their lives at risk. The lack of legal and safe routes, and the complications surrounding seeking asylum in Europe and other countries encourage them to take these dangerous risks.

International laws and conventions related to the status of refugees view migrants as vulnerable groups forced by unstable security and political or economic conditions to leave their country of origin to seek new refuge.

Those agreements work to protect the rights of these groups on the humanitarian level in the first place, guarantee their rights in a way that does not harm the host country, and ensure states humanely deal with them.

Despite the Libyan authorities responding violently to migrants, resulting in many deaths, the European Union continues to increase its support for the Libyan Coast Guard.

In addition, migrant origin countries lack serious and effective measures to protect their nationals detained in Libya, or to monitor their legal status.

The report reviewed the violations faced by migrants and asylum seekers during the pushbacks, as well as in prisons and detention centers. It is based on months of field documentation and interviews with migrants and their families.

The researchers monitored the various Libyan agencies’ dealing with migrants, particularly the Coast Guard, prison administrations, and security forces.

The report also highlighted the various human trafficking methods, and responses by neighbouring countries’ regarding the migration and asylum crises in Libya.

It compared the rights guaranteed to migrants in relevant international charters and agreements to their actual treatment on the ground. It also made recommendations that – if adopted – will contribute to restoring human dignity and safeguarding the basic rights of migrants.

Notably, the conditions of migrants in Libya have seen significant deterioration since the beginning of 2021, especially after strict security measures were undertaken.

Migrants’ rights derive their legitimacy from the supposed protection they should receive, as they are fragile, endangered, or exploited in their countries of origin, and registration is impossible. Hence, international law has taken particular care of these groups and assigned them special protection under several important covenants and agreements, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As well as contractual agreements that regulate their status and protect their rights, such as the 1951 International Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, and the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants 2016.

Due to its maritime borders with Malta and Italy, Libya constitutes the primary corridor for hundreds of thousands of migrants wishing to cross to Europe.