Deputy O'Sullivan, who is keeping me busy today, raises a very worrying development. As she will be aware, the situation in Libya has deteriorated significantly in recent months and is extremely dangerous. She highlighted that, as part of the ongoing conflict, an attack affecting migrants was reported in April at Qasr bin Ghashir. There are conflicting reports on what happened but the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, has stated that 12 people were physically attacked and required hospital treatment. The following day, the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration, IOM, with the support of the Libyan authorities and the UN mission in Libya, evacuated 325 refugees from Qasr bin Ghashir to a safer location.
The EU provides support to the work of the UNHCR and IOM in Libya and their efforts to relocate migrants and refugees to safer places, both inside Libya and, where voluntary return is possible, to their countries of origin. The EU believes that detention centres are not a suitable place for migrants in Libya. However, political fragmentation and the fragile security situation in Libya limit the capacity of the international community to access all areas where migrants are currently located or to influence the situation on the ground. Ensuring an end to human rights abuses will require the restoration of political stability and a fully functioning government.
I continue to be deeply troubled by human rights abuses against civilians in Libya, including migrants and refugees, in particular, persistent reports of abuse in detention centres. The ongoing fighting around Tripoli is endangering thousands of civilians and putting already vulnerable migrants and refugees at further risk.
I agree with the UNHCR's assessment that Libya is not a safe third country for refugees and migrants, and that those rescued at sea should not be returned to Libya. It is not EU policy to send people back to Libya, but rather to disrupt the business model of smugglers or traffickers, so as to prevent further loss of life in the Mediterranean.