EU may be breaking human rights by funding Libya

Three international associations of note have legally challenged the €100 million fund which the European Union is planning to give to Libya as an aid in the coronavirus pandemic. They have also recommended the suspension of the EU Emergency Trust Fund’s Integrated Border Management Program through which the aid was to be channelled. These organisations have filed a complaint to the European Court of Auditors claiming “Mismanagement of EU Funds by the EU Trust Fund for Africa’s ‘Support to Integrated Border and Migration Management in Libya’ Programme”

Maltese Government requested funding

The Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI) and Italian Recreational and Cultural Association (ARCI) claimed that the EU is breaching its own financial regulations. This is in line with the position taken by MEPs in a debate on the situation in Libe Committee of the EU on the 27th April. While the Maltese government asked the EU to give Libya a substantial aid package to possibly make it a safe port for migrants, MEPs from across the political spectrum insisted that the EU should shop channelling funds to Libya to manage immigration and train its coastguard since the violation of the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers have continued unabated.

Contributing to violations of Human Rights?

The organisations questioned “how the EU has accounted for and responded to concerns about its complicity in the violations resulting from Italian-Libyan cooperation, at least as a matter of international law”.  They added that, in a June 2019 report, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe maintained that “assistance aimed at enhancing rescue capacity may not be distinguishable from assistance enabling the Libyan Coast Guard to prevent people from fleeing Libya” and is thus “in clear violation of the obligation only to disembark rescued persons in a place of safety.” In this report, the Commissioner for the Council of Europe had written that “there has been a remarkable silence over how member states have ensured that they are not contributing, directly or indirectly, to violations of the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard.”

EU must adhere to its own regulations

For this reason, the three organisations claimed that “The EU is contributing through the IBM programme to Italian-Libyan actions that violate human rights.” The organisations said that to comply with its obligations under EU laws on financial regulation and external action, the EU must condition its funding of Italian-Libyan cooperation on ensuring Libyan actors respect human rights and international law on four counts:

a. The prompt release of all refugees and migrants being arbitrarily detained in Libya, and the end of the system of automatic, indefinite detention.

b. Guaranteeing the UNHCR’s full access to people of concern across the country and its possibility to carry out its full mandate, irrespective of the nationality of beneficiaries.

c. The signing and ratification of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol and adoption and enactment of new legislation, policies and procedures on migration and asylum, providing for the decriminalization of irregular entry, stay and exit; an end to automatic detention; and the creation of an asylum system that complies with international standards.

d. The establishment of independent, impartial, and transparent monitoring of human rights violations against refugees and migrants in Libya, with the aim to ensure accountability for state and non-state actors