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Moving the migrant issue is no solution

Pushing the migrant situation to Libya does not solve the problem.

Published in: European Voice

The European Commission's pressure on Italy to report on its forced - and reportedly brutal - return of migrants to Libya is welcome ("Commissione questions Italy's immigration policy", 23-29 July). But the statement by Jacques Barrot, the Commission's vice-president, that these were isolated incidents unlikely to be repeated, because the Libya-Italy agreement will mean "fewer illegal migrants coming in", is cause for concern.  

Of equal concern is the comment by Gil Arias-Fernández, the deputy director of Frontex, the EU's border agency, that the Libya-Italy agreement has "had a positive impact...due to fewer departures", even though "our agency does not have the ability to confirm if the right to request asylum as well as other human rights are being respected in Libya".

While interdiction and deterrence off the coast of Libya may appear to have a positive impact on the EU's immigration problem, they hardly solve the problems faced by refugees and migrants.

Current Italian interdiction operations violate the right to seek asylum from persecution and leave both refugees and migrants in the hands of a government that routinely treats them deplorably.

I have interviewed scores of Africans in Italy and Malta who have arrived from Libya by boat and heard accounts of mistreatment by Libyan police and guards, indefinite lengths of detention in dirty and overcrowded jails and no real opportunity to seek protection. Libya has not signed the Refugee Convention and does not have a domestic asylum law.

Pushing the EU's migration problem out of sight, to Libya, does not make it go away or absolve Europeans of responsibility when their actions deny the right to seek asylum and subject people to inhuman and degrading treatment.

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