In June 2018, the European Council reconfirmed that a functioning EU policy on migration requires a comprehensive approach which combines effective controls of the EU's external borders, action to strengthen co-operation with countries of transit and origin, and dealing with the management of migrants within the European Union, where a balance of solidarity and responsibility is needed.
I continue to be deeply troubled by the human rights abuses that migrants and refugees suffer in Libya, in particular the persistent abuses that have been reported in detention centres. At the Foreign Affairs Council in December 2018, the EU committed to continue to work with the Libyan authorities to improve conditions for migrants and refugees, with a view to addressing the current system of detention. The EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini, met with the Prime Minister of Libya and the UN Special Representative for Libya in February 2019 and discussed how conditions in detention centres can continue to be improved for migrants with the assistance of the EU and UN agencies.
Over the past 18 months, some progress has been made in alleviating the plight of migrants in Libya. In late 2017, the EU stepped up cooperation with UN agencies and the African Union to accelerate returns from Libya for those migrants who wish to leave, and to establish safe and legal pathways to resettle those who need international protection. This has contributed to the voluntary return of more than 37,000 vulnerable migrants stranded in Libya. The EU also provides support to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to assist migrants inside Libyan detention centres, including with primary medical assistance.
Over 500 asylum-seekers and refugees have been released from detention so far in 2019, but some 6,000 remain, and continued efforts are required on their behalf. The Libyan authorities should continue to work with relevant international organisations to make available alternatives to detention centres, particularly for vulnerable migrants. In the meantime, oversight in detention centres needs to be expanded and improved. We are aware that the Libyan Government does not have full control over the territory of Libya, but all parties, including those with de facto control of territory, have a responsibility to end ill treatment of migrants, and to facilitate UN and other humanitarian access to detention centres.
Regrettably, political fragmentation and the fragile security situation in Libya limit the capacity of the international community to influence the situation on the ground. There is a governance vacuum in many areas of the country, and in many areas access for international organisations seeking to monitor and alleviate conditions for migrants is restricted. Bringing real improvements to the lives of Libyans and migrants, and ensuring an end to human rights abuses, will require restoration of political stability, and a fully functioning and unified Government.
While Libya is the epicentre of this crisis, a long-term solution will require further cooperation from States all along migration routes, and the support of regional partners and the international community. Ireland has committed €15 million to the EU’s Trust Fund for Africa, which aims to address the root causes of destabilisation, forced displacement and irregular migration in Africa. Work to reduce poverty in countries of origin, which is one of the main drivers of irregular migratory flows, is at the core of Ireland’s aid programme.