An E.U. ombudsman is investigating the bloc’s border agency Frontex after activists raised concerns about its cooperation with Libyan coast guards.
Inquiry into risk assessment
Frontex trains and provides equipment to Libyan border authorities through an an €85 million ($83m) project. Six human rights groups have lodged a complaint accusing Frontex of failing to assess the risks to human rights associated with this support.
An E.U. ombudsman has opened an inquiry as a result of the complaint and has asked Frontex to provide information on whether risk assessments were carried out. The ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, stated that documents related to one training exercise attached to the complaint did not include a risk assessment.
U.N. criticizes voluntary return programs in Libya
People who are intercepted by Libyan authorities at sea and returned to Libya often face extreme systematic abuse in detention facilities that have been likened to concentration camps, including forced labor, torture and extortion.
A recent U.N. report criticized the use of “assisted return” programs in this context. Acting U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al-Nashif, writes:
This desperate situation requires all concerned to ensure that no migrant is compelled to accept assisted return to an unsafe or unsustainable situation in their country of origin.
The report draws on the experiences of people who accepted return because their only other option was to suffer extreme abuse. One interviewee stated:
They entered the prison with a stick and were beating people like animals. Sometimes they would take your money and good clothes. They broke my teeth. So, I accepted return.
They added that they were not given the option to apply for asylum in Libya or elsewhere.
Join the fight for change
As the ombudsman investigates Frontex, many organizations continue to campaign for change for people stuck in Libya.
Berenice Gaudin of Sea Watch, one of the groups that filed a complaint, told The National:
Our message is clear: we are watching and we will continue to fight Frontex’s border practices through all possible legal ways.
The Freedom United community is also mobilizing on this issue. We are currently calling on Italy to cancel its Memorandum of Understanding with Libya before it automatically renews on November 2. Join us by signing the petition and participating in our Twitter action.
Freedom United is interested in hearing from our community and welcomes relevant, informed comments, advice, and insights that advance the conversation around our campaigns and advocacy. We value inclusivity and respect within our community. To be approved, your comments should be civil.
A few things we do not tolerate: comments that promote discrimination, prejudice, racism, or xenophobia, as well as personal attacks or profanity. We screen submissions in order to create a space where the entire Freedom United community feels safe to express and exchange thoughtful opinions.
Italy must not renew the Memorandum of Understanding with Libya.