The European Union (EU) has been accused of aiding and abetting the commission of human rights violations against migrants by supporting and training the Libyan coastguard that stops and detains migrants, according to Chaloka Beyani, an investigator for a UN mission. Beyani stated that the EU has provided funding to Libyan border management programs via the Italian government, and support and training to the Libyan coastguard, which returns migrants to detention centers. The UN fact-finding mission reported that crimes against humanity were committed against migrants in these centers.
The final report, which examined abuses by all sides in Libya, said that evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity would be sent to the International Criminal Court. The abuses investigated by the mission were primarily connected to the consolidation of power and wealth by militias and other state-affiliated groups, which led to trafficking, enslavement, forced labor, imprisonment, extortion, and smuggling of migrants, generating significant revenue for individuals, groups, and state institutions.
The situation in Libya remains fragile since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, and warring eastern and western factions have split the country since 2014. Though major fighting ended in 2020, little progress has been made towards a political solution, and armed factions dominate the ground. Libyan authorities have previously denied systematic abuse of migrants.
The EU has been criticized by human rights groups for its support of the Libyan coastguard, and the UN’s report has added to that criticism. Beyani clarified that the EU and its member states have not committed these crimes, but their support has aided and abetted their commission.
Peter Stano, lead spokesperson for EU external affairs, stated that the EU is providing assistance to help Libya improve their performance when it comes to search and rescue, with a focus on human rights. However, a European Commission spokesperson for migration did not respond to an email requesting comment.
The UN’s report sheds light on the abuses faced by the 670,000 migrants in Libya, who the report said faced “an abhorrent cycle of violence” from the moment smugglers took them into Libya and involving repeated detentions without judicial review. The report called for the immediate release of all migrants from detention centers in Libya.
The UN mission’s report serves as a stark reminder of the need for international support to address the human rights violations faced by migrants in Libya. The EU and its member states must reevaluate their support for the Libyan coastguard and ensure that they are not contributing to the commission of crimes against humanity.