A terrifying night in Libya highlights the EU’s sly double standards on migrants

Refugees and migrants in one of Libya’s detention centres — Photo Credit: Confidential

The choice migrants face is no choice at all. Stay in the inhuman setting of the detention centre, or go back to a war zone, or a country where you will be persecuted

Ahmed El-Gasir
The Independent Voices

In the neighbourhood of Tajoura in eastern Tripoli on the night of 2 July, two airstrikes struck a detention centre in which refugees and migrants were held. At least 53 people, reportedly including six children, were killed. At least 130 were injured. Days later, bodies were still being pulled from the rubble.

The attack, branded a war crime by the UN, has been blamed on the warlord Khalifa Haftar, whose Libyan National Army (LNA) have wrought destruction wherever they have gone. But Haftar cannot be blamed for the detention of these refugees and migrants, nor the appalling conditions in which they were forced to live before their murder from the sky.

In 2009, the then Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi reached an agreement with Italy. Under the terms of the agreement, Libya would staunch the flow of migrants through the country and across the Mediterranean to the southern shores of Europe. In return, the EU would provide the Libyan coast guard with resources and training.

The deal fell apart in the wake of Gaddafi’s overthrow, but it was resurrected in 2016 by the incumbent Government of National Accord (GNA). Italy began to intercept migrants crossing the sea and return them to Libya, where they were and are held in detention centres until “the EU finds them third countries to which to relocate”. The EU’s request to establish processing offices for migrants on Libyan soil was flatly refused.

The care of migrants held in detention centres is delegated to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and funded by the EU. But this care amounts only to “hygiene kits”, consisting of toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap, and mattresses, as well as blankets in winter. The IOM provides no food or medicine, and visiting doctors only provide prescriptions; those without money, then, must go without medicine.




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