On Wednesday, Henrike Trautmann, an official at the European Commission’s directorate for neighbourhood and enlargement policies said that the European Union hopes to deliver more vessels to the Libyan Coast Guard before the summer. As this is when irregular sea crossings are expected to increase.
In press statements, Trautmann added that they would be delivering three new search-and-rescue vessels, and two refurbished patrol boats to Libya starting in the first half of 2022.
“Libyan Coast Guard officials will visit Italy at the end of the month to test out the new boats ahead of their delivery,” she said.
“From 2014 to 2020 Europe has spent more than €500 million Euros ($565 million) on programs in Libya, mainly related to migration and border management,” Trautmann said.
She told European Parliament lawmakers that Libya’s capacity to stop migrants and refugees from reaching Europe or from drowning at sea “remains stretched” even if it has improved over the past year thanks to EU support.
In 2021, more than 68,000 people successfully crossed the central Mediterranean, disembarking mainly in Italy and to a lesser extent in Malta. This is compared to some 36,000 in 2020. Roughly half of those had departed from Libya, on overcrowded and often unseaworthy boats.
On the other hand, the Libyan Coast Guard “rescued” more than 31,000 migrants and refugees Trautmann said, without mentioning the abusive detention centers to which they are taken after disembarking.
She also downplayed human rights concerns and documented abuse of people who were returned to Libya.
“Libya is not a poor country, so what is missing currently is capacities and structures but not necessarily money,” she said. The official added that the EU’s new programs will focus on developing and strengthening democracy and the rule of law, with €20 million Euros a year that could be increased to €32-37 million Euros.
Trautmann also highlighted the need to push for a transition to clean energy in Libya, and the implementation of “environmental measures” to address the impacts of climate change on migration.
Libya failed to hold its much-anticipated Presidential elections originally scheduled for 24 December. The postponement was a major blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in the oil-rich nation.