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. I am particularly concerned by the ongoing fighting around the Libyan capital, Tripoli, which is endangering thousands of civilians, including putting already vulnerable migrants and refugees in Libya at further risk.
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.
Ireland and the EU will continue to support the work of the UN migration and refugee agencies to monitor and improve conditions for refugees and migrants in Libya, including inside detention centres, and to assist with the voluntary return of migrants to their countries of origin. As I have consistently stated, conditions in Libyan detention centres are totally unacceptable. The European Union is working to find ways to ensure that migrants are not held in detention centres in the first place, and to put an end to the system of arbitrary detention in Libya. In the meantime, we are working with the UN migration and refugee agencies and other international partners to provide protection and assistance to vulnerable migrants and refugees at Libyan disembarkation points, in most of the official detention centres, and in host communities.
Unfortunately, the current instability in Libya further limits the capacity of the international community to do this important work in some areas. I applaud the efforts of the UNHCR, which, over the past two months, and in the midst of escalating violence, has successfully relocated hundreds of refugees and migrants from more dangerous areas into safe zones.
EU diplomats regularly discuss the situation in Libya, taking stock of any opportunities to exert a positive influence on the situation, and to support political efforts to resolve the conflict. In recent EU discussions on Libya, Irish officials have highlighted the importance of guaranteeing the safety of refugees and migrants. However, political fragmentation and the fragile security situation in Libya limit the capacity of the EU and the wider international community to influence the situation on the ground. 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.
Ireland and the EU fully support the work of the UN Special Representative in Libya, Ghassan Salamé, and we urge all parties to engage constructively with the UN with the aim of achieving a political solution that guarantees Libya’s security, economic sustainability, and national unity. At the Foreign Affairs Council in May, we discussed with UN Special Representative Salamé what the EU can do to help prevent further escalation in the conflict. My officials and I will continue to highlight the plight of migrants and refugees in Libya at every appropriate opportunity.