Africa and EU agree to evacuate migrants from Libya back to home countries
Photo credit: PHILIPPE WOJAZER/AFP/Getty Images. European and African leaders pose at the start of the summit.
TMP – 12/12/2017
African and European countries have agreed an emergency plan to evacuate thousands of migrants held in detention centres in Libya back to their home countries.
French leader Emmanuel Macron announced the initiative in Abidjan on 29 November after a meeting in the margins of a larger EU-Africa summit.
Macron told press the “emergency operation” which he described as a “concrete military and police initiative on the ground” would take place in the next few days in order to evacuate those from Libya who wanted to go back to their home countries. The plan was discussed by the leaders of Germany, Italy, and Spain, as well as Chad, DR Congo, Libya, Niger, and Morocco, and with top EU, African Union, and UN officials.
He added that Libya had assured access to “the camps where barbaric scenes have been identified.”
African nations will take the lead in freeing people from detention camps, identifying where they had come from, issuing travel documents, and paying for their repatriation, it was reported by the German news agency DPA.
The UN refugee and migrant agencies, UNHCR and IOM, will also play a role in taking people home and EU states will contribute financial “fresh-start assistance” to returning migrants. Some refugees from Chad and Niger, who are at risk of persecution in those countries, will be resettled in Europe.
Although reports of slave trading and other abuses in Libya have been circulated by aid agencies for more than a year, the recent announcement to tackle the issue comes after US broadcaster CNN showed footage of people being sold as slaves for $400 a head in Libya.
Amnesty International says there are “more than 20,000 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers being unlawfully held in detention centres” in Libya regularly facing “ brutal treatment; beatings, torture, and rape.”
“The Libyan coastguard is stopping people at sea trying to escape these abuses, and bringing them back to detention,” Amnesty added, citing EU support for these activities.
The EU also announced it would launch a “joint task force” with the African Union and with the UN “to dismantle traffickers and criminal networks” and to “save and protect lives of migrants and refugees along the routes and in particular inside Libya.”