EU Commission: Our Aim is to Train Libyan Coast Guards & Protect Migrants


On Sunday, the EU Commission said that “Europe’s actions in Libya mainly aim to achieve four goals, most notably training coast guards, protecting and assisting migrants and refugees, supporting local communities and improving border management.”

This appears to be an implicit response to the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission in Libya’s (FFM) accusation of EU support for the Libyan authorities who intercept and detain migrants.

An investigator for the FFM recently stated that the EU had “aided and abetted rights breaches against migrants, by supporting Libyan authorities that halt and detain refugees.”

Via the Italian government, the EU and its member states have backed and trained the Libyan Coast Guard, which transports migrants apprehended at sea back to detention facilities.

The investigator, Chaloka Beyani was speaking following the presentation of a report by the FFM. The mission claimed crimes against humanity were committed against migrants in these detention facilities.

The EU Commission stated that the majority of migrants transit through Libya, on their journey towards Europe. This has contributed to the development of well-established and resilient smuggling and trafficking networks in Libya.

According to its statement, the Libyan Coast Guard began receiving training from the EU in 2016. EU leaders agreed to provide more training, equipment, and support in February 2017.

This training was initially delivered through the EU’s Operation Sophia, to disrupt human smuggling and trafficking networks in the southern central Mediterranean, and prevent the further loss of life at sea.

On 31 March 2020, Operation IRINI was launched to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya, while retaining the task of contributing to the capacity-building and training of the Libyan Coast Guard and navy for law enforcement tasks at sea.

The EU also supported the assisted voluntary return programme run by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

This programme helped migrants stranded in Libya who wished to return voluntarily to their countries of origin. More than 65,000 migrants from Libya have benefited from this programme from 2017-2022.

The mechanism is funded by the EU and run by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which selects eligible candidates. Between 2017 and November 2022, more than 5,340 persons in need of protection have departed from Libya to ETM centres in Niger and Rwanda.

In March 2018 the EU adopted a programme worth €50 million euros to improve the living conditions of migrants in Libya, and their host communities.

In July 2018, the EU announced a new programme worth €29 million euros for stepping up the protection of refugees and migrants in Libya at disembarkation points, in detention centres, in remote southern desert areas, and urban settings.

In 2020, as part of the new assistance package to support vulnerable groups and address COVID-19 in North Africa, the EU adopted a €25 million euro community stabilisation programme to continue to improve the living conditions in Libyan municipalities, in particular in the south, by enhancing access to basic and social services.

In June 2021, the EU Council extended the EU Border Assistance Mission in Libya (EUBAM) mandate for a further two years until 30 June 2023, and approving a budget of €84.85 million for the period from 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2023. EUBAM Libya supports the Libyan authorities in developing border management and security at the country’s land, sea, and air borders.