How Libya and Europe evade accountability for forced labor

How Libya and Europe evade accountability for forced labor

  • Published on
    June 13, 2022
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  • Category:
    Forced Labor, Human Trafficking, Law & Policy
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Despite the European Union’s claims that they are working to improve conditions in detention centers in Libya, evidence shows that detainees continue to be subjected to forced labor, torture and other forms of abuse and neglect.

The New Humanitarian has released an interview with the journalist Sally Hayden about the role of the E.U. in perpetuating human rights violations in Libya and the need for accountability.

No records of what happens in Libyan detention centers

“People can go missing or even die without their names being noted down,” Hayden explains. Having spent the last four years investigating and reporting on what occurs in Libyan detention centers, she stresses to The New Humanitarian how the lack of a functioning registration system impedes accountability for the crimes committed against detainees.

The E.U.’s current policy of supporting the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) to return people intercepted at sea emerged in the wake of the 2012 European Court of Human Rights’ ruling that the European coast guard could not do so. Although the E.U. is actively strengthening the LCG, the bloc’s border agency, Frontex, has admitted to Hayden that they do not monitor what happens to people once they are picked up by the Libyan authorities.

On the lack of a registration system, Hayden explains:

There’s no list of who is inside. It’s a sign of the dysfunctionality of the Libyan state, but it is also deliberate. In detention centres, people get sold to traffickers, they pay their way out, they get sent out during the day as forced labour. Having a registration system would get in the way of being able to do that. […] You cannot do a proper analysis of the consequences of European policies that support these interceptions and returns without that information, but it just isn’t being gathered.

Conditions remain dire five years into the E.U.’s policy

European politicians claim that they do not approve of the detention centers and that they are trying to improve conditions there. As well as for training and equipment for the Libyan Coast Guard, money from the EU Trust Fund goes to IOM and UNCHR who then distribute funds for partner organizations to use to improve conditions.

However, after five years, there is no evidence of any improvement. Hayden states: “We can’t pretend like this situation is going to get better now. It has been going on long enough. We know that it’s not getting better.”

Raise your voice against E.U. complicity

The lack of monitoring is a barrier to the movement to hold the E.U. accountable for the crimes committed in Libya. Nevertheless, many organizations and individuals, like Hayden, are working hard to gather evidence and bring it to light. Hayden has been investigating and reporting on the situation in Libya for the past four years, and has compiled her findings in a book, “My Fourth Time, We Drowned: Seeking refuge on the world’s deadliest migration route”.

For the E.U. to stop facilitating the enslavement of people in Libya, we need to unite against its harmful border externalization policy. We need people all over Europe and the world to know the deadly consequences of these policies and to cry out against them. We need your voice. Sign the petition today.


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