- Libya has never called for building walls“
- The EU should take the lead
- Foreign Affairs committee report to come
The situation of migrants in Libya and the country’s future prospects in the current regional context were debated by Foreign Affairs MEPs and experts in a hearing on Monday.
MEPs on the Foreign Affairs committee asked clarifications about the illicit slave actions of African migrants in Libya, unveiled by a recent CNN report. Mohamed Farhat, Chargé d’Affaires of the Libyan Embassy to Belgium, ensured that Libyan authorities in Tripoli are investigating the issue and trying to identify the traffickers. He urged the international community to support Libya in managing the migrant flows, underlining that “despite the past difficult seven years, Libya has never called for building walls”.
After the EU-Africa Summit that took place in Abidjan in November, Farhat added, a proposal has been put forward for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to manage a facility for transit and departure for migrants to be returned to their countries of origin, but it is still not clear where the facility will be located and how the mechanism would work in practice. Migration is not the only issue to tackle, said Farhat: Libya “should be perceived as a post war country”, which needs unified institutions and armed forces, as well as economic reforms.
Karim Mezran, Senior Fellow of the Rafik Hariri Centre for the Middle East in the Atlantic Council urged the EU and the international community to stand united behind the plan designed by the UN Envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salamé, for a democratic transition in the framework of the Libyan Political agreement (LPA). However, he added, if the plan were to fail because of a lack of agreement between the parts or ill timing, calling for new elections might be the only way to get the Libyan people to continue to support a political solution rather than a military one. Such elections would only be legitimate if the vast majority of citizens were to participate; in order to avoid a low turnout like that of the 2014 elections, very simple electoral law and an effective campaign, he said.
MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri (S&D, IT), AFET’s monitoring rapporteur for Libya, noted that the fight on smugglers on the central Mediterranean route, led by Italy, brought about a new set of problems. The migrants intercepted at sea and brought back to Libya suffer inhumane conditions, he said, while the smugglers have switched to other activities, namely selling Libyan oil on the black market, draining resources from an already struggling country. The EU should take the lead in dealing with the situation in Libya, he concluded, reiterating that the Foreign Affairs committee will issue a report on the matter.