“Death Would Have Been Better”: Europe Continues to Fail Refugees and Migrants in Libya

Today, European policies designed to keep asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants from crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Italy are trapping thousands of men, women and children in appalling conditions in Libya. This Refugees International report describes the harrowing experiences of people detained in Libya’s notoriously abusive immigration detention system where they are exposed to appalling conditions and grave human rights violations, including arbitrary detention and physical and sexual abuse.

The report is based on February 2018 interviews conducted with asylum seekers and refugees who had been evacuated by UNHCR from detention centers in Libya to Niamey, Niger, where these men, women, and children await resettlement to a third country. The report shows that as the EU mobilizes considerable resources and efforts to stop the migration route through Libya, asylum seekers, refugees and migrants continue to face horrendous abuses in Libya – and for those who attempt it, an even deadlier sea crossing to Italy. RI is particularly concerned that the EU continues to support the Libyan coast guard to intercept boats carrying asylum seekers, refugees and migrants and bring them back to Libyan soil, even though they are then transferred to detention centers.

As the EU mobilizes considerable resources and efforts to stop the migration route through Libya, asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants continue to face horrendous abuses in Libya.
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The report also stresses the need for EU and other countries to urgently resettle the asylum seekers and refugees who have been evacuated to Niger. European governments’ failure to resettle them fast enough and in sufficient numbers led to a suspension of the program in March, leaving those who have been evacuated to Niger in limbo and preventing others from being rescued from Libya.

Refugees International recommends a number of steps to address the Libya crisis, including the following:

  • The EU and its member states should make support to the Libyan coast guard conditional on the transfer of intercepted asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants to open shelters that meet international human rights standards.

  • EU governments should urgently resettle all asylum seekers and refugees who were evacuated from Libya to Niger.

  • The Libyan authorities should end the detention of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants and decriminalize irregular entry and stay in the country.

  • As long as asylum seekers, refugees and migrants continue to be detained, UN agencies and NGOs should be granted full access to these populations and the ability to provide care and services.