I was shocked to learn of the attack on the detention centre in Tajoura, Libya, last week. Attacks against civilians, including refugees and migrants, are totally unacceptable, and contrary to International Humanitarian Law. On 3 July, I issued a statement condemning the attack, and supporting the calls of the EU and the UN for an investigation into the facts of what may well constitute a war crime.
All EU Member States have condemned in the strongest terms this attack in a statement issued on 5 July. EU Member States welcomed any fact-finding mission undertaken by the UN into the attack, called for an end to fighting in Libya, urged parties to return to the UN led mediation process, and reminded all Libyan parties of their obligations under International Humanitarian Law. EU Member States also expressed our readiness to urgently step up collective efforts to address the situation, and in particular, to improve protection and assistance to migrants and refugees.
As I said in my statement last week, this tragic event underlines the fact that the system of detention centres in Libya is completely unsuitable for migrants, and puts them at risk. Ireland and the EU’s position is that Libya’s system of detaining migrants must end, and that migration must be managed in full compliance with international law. In the meantime, the EU has been working to provide life-saving support to migrants and refugees in detention.
The EU has mobilised €318 million under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa for the protection of migrants, refugees and internally displaced people in Libya, and to provide support to local communities to cope with the migration challenge. Throughout the conflict in Libya, the EU has cooperated with the UNHCR and IOM, which have staff on the ground in Libya, to provide protection and assistance to vulnerable migrants and refugees in detention centres and elsewhere. We have successfully evacuated refugees and migrants from detention centres near the frontline, and, where possible, have enabled them to find safety outside Libya, including in the Emergency Transit Mechanism in Niger, with a view to their resettlement. Through our cooperation with the UN and the African Union, the EU has helped over 45,000 migrants stranded in Libya to return to their countries of origin, and has evacuated close to 4,000 persons in need of international protection. However, many more people remain at risk, and the EU will continue to work with its partners to relocate them to safe places swiftly to receive assistance.
Unfortunately, political fragmentation and the fragile security situation in Libya limit the capacity of the international community to access all areas where migrants are located, or to influence the situation on the ground. Ultimately, ensuring adequate treatment of migrants and refugees will require restoration of political stability, and a fully functioning Libyan Government. Ireland and the EU continue to support the efforts of the UN Special Representative, Ghassan Salamé, to bring this about. All Libyans, and all international parties, should give their full support to the UN-led political efforts, and parties should ensure that they follow through on commitments made during the talks. This is the only way to ensure that civilians in Libya, including migrants and refugees, are protected.