We, activists and members of civil society organisations working on ongoing human rights violations against migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Libya, express our deep concern regarding the general climate of impunity and lack of accountability in the country. This volatile situation is further hampered by the shrinking of civic space, especially in light of through the criminalisation of activists and the crackdown on civil society organisations
In the last 6 years, since the Italy-Libya Memorandum of Understanding was signed, almost 185,000 people have been intercepted at sea by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard and brought back to detention centres in Libya. In these centres, which are at the hands of violent militias, they are at high risk of being subjected to mistreatments, forced labour, rape, torture and trafficking. A recent research carried out by Tilburg University concluded that at least 200,000 refugees (mostly from Eritrea) have been enslaved and trafficked in Libya between 2017-2021
The OHCHR Report Unsafe and Undignified: The forced expulsion of migrants from Libya, as well as the June 2022 report from the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya, found evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the specific case of migrants’ detention centres
Since 2021, some of the “official” detention facilities are being run by the Stabilisation Support Authority (SSA), which, according to Amnesty International, is a “a state-funded militia that operates with impunity” and who also intercepts migrants at sea
In its latest report dated 30 January 2023, the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Libya said that “arbitrary detention in Libya has become pervasive as a tool of political repression and control”, and that “Libyan authorities must take decisive steps to provide justice and redress to the vast number of victims suffering from long-standing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law”.
Externalisation policies, pullbacks and pushbacks
The EU and its Member States continue to further develop externalisation policies and try to contain migration by all possible means. They do so by equipping and supporting the so-called “Libyan Coast Guard”, who intercepted and returned 24,684 people to Libya in 2022, and almost 3,046 so far in 2023. Evidence shows how some of these interceptions are facilitated by Frontex through aircrafts and drones
The International Organisation for Migration reports that in the whole year 2022, 525 people died and 848 went missing in the Central Mediterranean route. These numbers are likely to be much higher due to the complete absence of information regarding many shipwrecks taking place along this route. As reported by Alarm Phone, pushbacks by merchant vessels are also common The situation at land borders is also extremely worrying: according to official statistics reported by OHCHR, “in 2019 and 2020, at least 7,500 migrants have been expelled from Libya’s external land borders”, most of them Egyptians, Sudanese and Chadians. More recently, forced returns have increased to Niger, Sudan and Chad. Also, boat departures of Egyptians from the East of Libya are on the rise: in 2022, Egyptians were the second nationality of migrants arriving in Italy (after Tunisians), while in 2021, more than 26,500 Egyptians were stopped at the Libyan border. The situation of asylum seekers and refugees inside Libya who are registered with the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, and are also victims of arbitrary detention and deportation, is very concerning as well, as is the lack of a legislative framework for the protection of migrant workers in the country. Hundreds of migrants are expelled by Libyan forces to get starved or kidnapped by ransom gangs. In January 2023, 600 migrants detained in Al Kufra facility controlled by the Department for Combating Illegal Immigration (DCIM) were expelled by the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF). This number included Sudanese asylum seekers registered at the UNHCR. Many are believed to have died in the desert and most went missing
At the same time, the European Union is committed to further “strengthen capacity of Libya to prevent irregular departures”, as stated in the Action Plan on the Central Mediterranean, and to disburse EUR 45 million to Libya and Tunisia to strengthen border management, including supporting Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCC) and the “training academy for border guards in Libya”. The EU is also committed to “explore ways to improve process to disembark migrants in Libya”, as stated in the 12-point MOCADEM Action file on Libya
Libya is not a safe place for disembarkation for migrants, and despite the numerous acknowledgements of this fact by UN bodies and the Council of Europe, and the many denunciations of agreements, the EU remains silent. On 6 February 2023, Italy handed over the first of the five announced patrol vessels to the Libyan Coast Guard (under EUTF budget), in the presence of European Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner Várhelyi.
It is clear that the way the EU and some EU Member States collaborate with Libyan authorities in the field of migration is further hindering the stabilisation process in Libya. It also fosters a cycle of violence linked to interception and detention which strengthens local militias and human traffickers who are making money out of the lives of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees
We, the undersigned organisations, ask that
The EU and its Member States:
- Ensure that any agreements or cooperation between Libya and the EU and its Member States are consistent with international and EU Law.
- Esure transparency and disclosure of the monitoring and follow-up mechanisms adopted by EU to ensure the safety and security of migrants at sea, at disembarkation points and detention centers.
- Encourage and pressure Libyan authorities to open serious investigations into human rights violations and to implement the UN Fact Finding Mission’s recommendations
- Stop providing material and financial support to increase Libya’s capacity to intercept people at sea and/or land borders as it deteriorates the rights of migrants and refugees, increases pushbacks at sea and violence against them.
- Guarantee the transparency and accountability regarding the use of EU and Member States’ budget for border management projects in Libya.
- Focus Member States’ and the EU’s foreign policy on supporting the peace and stability process in Libya, and reduce the excessive focus on border management.
- Stress that Libya cannot be considered a Place of Safety for the disembarkation of migrants rescued at sea and put in place an EU Search and Rescue (SAR) operation in the Central Mediterranean; as well as to respect their duty of Search and Rescue.
- Reinforce safe and legal pathways for migration to the EU.
- Press Libyan authorities to fully respect the guarantees of the right to freedom of association, notably to:
- end the broad and systematic campaign of investigations and arbitrary arrest of bloggers, members of local civil society organizations (CSOs) and Libyan staff of international NGOs;
- allow Libyan CSOs to interact freely with UN agencies and international NGOs without prior security approval; cease all forms of reprisals against members of Libyan civil society for communicating with the international community about the human rights situation in the country;
- allow Libyan CSOs to visit detention facilities for migrants without prior approval from security bodies;
- freeze any decisions to suspend or dissolve Libyan CSOs without a prior judicial ruling; any such rulings must be issued in full respect for fair trial rights.
List of signatories
- Adala For All (AFA)
- Aman Against Discrimination(AAD)
- Belaady Organization for Human Rights
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
- Defender Center for Human Rights
- EuroMed Rights
- Independent Organization for Human Rights
- Libya Al Mostakbal
- Libyan Center for Freedom of Press
- Libyan Crimes Watch
- Libyan Network for Legal Aid
- Refugees in Libya
- Un Ponte Per (UPP)
- World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
- Youth Gathering for Tawargha
Brief Annual Report
Tripoli_ January 5th
2022 has been a quick year. We are on the verge of the new year 2023, and about to celebrate our tenth year at the Libyan Center for Freedom of Press. However, there are still many actions and missions that must be done to move forward along with a team that is betting on success and making impact. We work in an environment characterized by difficult challenges and increasing professional pressures on all of us, especially those working in Libyan civil society in the light of the fragility of the legal system and the increasing security risks and their complexity
Perhaps the most prominent feature of the past year is the significant shrinkage in the space for civil society work due to the arbitrary measures taken by the Commission of Civil Society in the east and west. 2022 has also witnessed our resilience and steadfast rejection of many decisions of the Government of National Unity. The GNU describes those decisions as reformist while we consider them as selective and vindictive
During the year 2022, we focused on the internal development of our institution. We have endeavoured to modernize its policies and administrative and executive structure. We have also focussed on fine-tuning our vision in supporting freedom of expression, conducting real and radical reforms to strengthen the independence of the Libyan press and the media sector. We have been pushing forward to promote the economic and social rights of journalists who continue to face exceptional critical circumstances that impose strict censorship on their work
Our ongoing efforts to combat hate speech and disinformation, which have been launched since 2017, may still find wide national interaction and resonance. These efforts have culminated in a painstaking and more professional work on Falso platform to monitor hate speech and fake news.
2022 was a year filled with discussions, orientation sessions, and round tables of dialogue that targeted several segments of Libyan society, such as academics, human rights defenders, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, leaders of political parties, and candidates for the stalled presidential and parliamentary elections along with journalists and fact-checkers. It all aimed at drawing the features of national vision to serve as the basis of a new national legislation that sets the path for a new era for media related freedoms and creates a break with the vulsive guided media discourse and the state of fragmentation
We believe that open dialogue on a common ground has enabled us to have live and direct discussions with 250 Libyans from several segments of the Libyan society, in 8 major Libyan cities
Many of the GNU decisions are efforts to control and orient the public and private media. Government Decision No. 811 of 2022 to regulate radio and television broadcasting best illustrates this as media lacks the most basic elements of “independence and pluralism”. The decision prompted us to go to the Administrative Department of the Court of Appeal to challenge the decision. Our Appeal is based on the illegality of the government’s decision as it contradicts with Libya’s obligations to international agreements and with the constitutional declaration in the country. Indeed, the government is trying to impose exorbitant fees without any services provided in a vindictive and selective manner of handling licensing and broadcasting
We have widened our training programs. We invested many years of training on physical and digital safety provided to more than 400 Libyan journalists, bloggers and activists. In addition, we have training our beneficiaries on journalism and human rights as we have trained more than 225 Libyan journalists in 5 Libyan cities. Now, we launched training programs on media coverage of the elections in the context of sensitive situations for 45 Libyan journalists so far. On the other hand, our media education and fact-checking programs target university students
Over the past year, our team has produced several visual and audio materials, press releases and statements, within the framework of expanding and involving the broad and general public in our work and programs. This helps us in terms of opening up and building a bridge for communication with the general public
Finally, 2022 remains the year of security risks within the context of fragility of the legal framework of our work and efforts, as well as the continuous professional pressure. Yet, we will inevitably overcome all obstacles
The Chief Executive Officer
Amid an absence of legal channels for migration, deaths at sea are on the rise while identification procedures remain negligent: The nightmarish journey of refugees continues even in death
Two months after the shipwreck off the coast of Zarzis in Tunisia and almost five months after the massacre at the crossing point between Nador and Melilla in Morocco, the shipwrecks and loss of life off the coast of the Mediterranean continue unabated. The impunity of the countries and actors responsible for these tragedies is flagrant. The signatory organizations are sounding the alarm and denouncing this hecatomb at the external borders of the European Union.
Since 2021, the number of deaths continues to rise
According to a recent report by the International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project, 5684 men, women and children have lost their lives on the migration routes to and within Europe since the beginning of 2021. Since 2014, 29,000 people have lost their lives at sea. These figures are unfortunately incomplete due to the large number of “invisible shipwrecks” on both the Central Mediterranean and Atlantic routes.
Behind these numbers are entire lives, stories, families, siblings, children and friends, who have the right to know how their loved ones lost their lives, to recover and identify their bodies, and to give them a dignified burial and a mourning.
According to the report of Caminando Fronteras, on the migratory routes to Spain, 978 people, including 41 minors, died in the first six months of 2022. On the Canary Islands route, 800 people lost their lives. In total, 18 boats disappeared with all the people on board. Almost 90% of the victims disappear at sea and their bodies are never found.
In July 2022 alone, 300 people died trying to reach the Canary Islands from Senegal. In mid-August 2022, 18 people, including a baby, died off the coast of Tarfaya in Morocco. They had been waiting for 8 hours for a rescue operation. On October 1, 2022, a merchant ship rescued a man in an inflatable boat in the Atlantic. In the boat, there were 4 deceased people and the man reported that 29 others were missing. On October 28, 2022, the bodies of 34 people washed ashore south of Dakhla. In early August, a boat with 14 people disappeared after leaving Tipazza, Algeria. These numbers are just a few examples in a sea of despair.
Multiple causes that can easily be addressed
The increased violence against migrants and the increase in deaths is a direct consequence of the EU and Member States’ outsourcing of migration policies, aimed at greater control and security of the North African states’ maritime borders. These measures have resulted in the displacement of migration routes to increasingly dangerous ones, resulting in an increase of deaths.
Instead of opening legal and safe routes and establishing search and rescue mechanisms at sea, the EU and its Member States continue to pursue security and deadly migration policies.
The Spanish government’s approval of sending an additional 30 million euros to Morocco for migration control is a glaring example. Since 2019, Morocco has received 123 million euros from Spain for migration control, in four separate payments. At the same time, the EU has provided 346 million euros to Morocco in the same period and will send another 500 million euros until 2027. Tunisia is not an exception, with Italy sending 19 million euros for border control between 2020 and 2021.
Forgotten in death: Lack of identification procedures denounced
In this context, the atrocities against migrants continue even after their death, as evidenced by the lack of identification procedures from Libya to Tunisia, and from Algeria to Morocco. This situation has been long denounced by the signatory organizations. Policies regarding the identification of bodies on the part of the authorities of the Maghreb and Mediterranean countries are negligent and often consist of burying bodies found on beaches after shipwrecks without any DNA testing or other summary identification procedure. The latest example of this lack of procedure occurred in early October 2022 when the bodies of 18 young people found in Zarzis (including families, women and children), were buried without any form of identification. This event caused strong protests and indignation from families and civil society who demanded that the bodies of those who died in shipwrecks be recovered, identified, and buried with dignity.
The same lack of identification and search procedures for missing persons is found on the Atlantic and Western Mediterranean routes. The practice of unidentified burial has also been documented at land borders, such as at the border between Nador and Melilla after the tragedy of June 24, 2022, where at least 37 migrants died while trying to cross the border. According to the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH), 77 people are still missing, but the final number of dead and missing will never be known. Immediately after the June 24 tragedy, AMDH Nador noted that the authorities wanted to bury the bodies without conducting the necessary investigations and without identifying the bodies. It was only due to the intervention of the AMDH that the authorities stopped this summary burial.
According to a recent BBC investigation, on June 24, lifeless bodies were dragged by Moroccan police into an area that, according to the BBC, was under Spanish control. At the same time, the Spanish Interior Ministry denies dragging the bodies from Melilla to the Moroccan border, while it is also accused of withholding crucial CCTV evidence from official investigations.
On October 31, 2022, UN experts denounced the lack of accountability in Spain and Morocco and called for a “thorough investigation, reparations to the victims and their families, and guarantees that this will not be repeated.”
The multiplication of deaths at sea and the outrage that is constituted by the mistreatment of bodies in death can no longer be tolerated in the Mediterranean. The signatory organizations therefore issue a series of recommendations for the European Union, its Member States, and the States of the southern shore to put an end to these practices.
The signatory organizations:
– Call for the establishment of safe and legal channels to access these countries and their asylum procedures;
– Call for the increase of “resettlement” programs and relocation mechanisms as the only valid response to reduce deaths and disappearances at sea;
– Call on the European Commission to eliminate the conditionality of development aid to European migration policy objectives. These funds should not be linked to the eventual cooperation of third countries in border management and readmission policy;
– Call on the European Commission to establish accountability mechanisms linking EU aid to the human rights obligations of partners. EU funds for migration should be disbursed in a transparent manner, with information on the institutions and organizations involved, earmarked budgets and the results of any projects carried out made public;
– Call on the European Commission to establish effective and transparent mechanisms for monitoring the political and legal actions of EU member states, with a system of sanctions to penalize their violations of European and international law. The infringement procedure must be strengthened to ensure accountability for human rights violations by EU member states, including the violation of the principle of non-refoulement, which runs counter to the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees;
– Call for the abandonment of negotiations on readmission agreements. The current violations of migrants’ and refugees’ rights in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and in the countries of origin, and the absence of post-return monitoring mechanisms, are not sufficient to qualify the countries of origin or the third country as “safe”;
– Call for a dialogue with the new actors in the migration environment who are responsible for part of the migration management to ensure that their protocols are consistent with human rights. Private actors such as border control companies are one example;
– Call for an examination of the implications of established policies, such as “voluntary returns”, and their impact on migration choices to more dangerous routes, and establish an effective and transparent mechanism for monitoring returns, in collaboration with civil society actors;
– Call for the establishment of measures, procedures and protocols that respect and protect the rights of people on the move.
On greater coordination/cooperation in search and rescue at sea, the signatory organizations:
– Call on States to establish a coordinated, effective and transparent maritime search and rescue mechanism to prevent further loss of life at sea;
– Call on States to redirect funds currently spent on border surveillance to search and rescue.
On greater coordination/cooperation on identification mechanisms and the search for missing migrants, the signatory organizations:
– Call on States to establish a coordinated mechanism to search for missing migrants at sea and on land;
– Call on States to redirect funds to increase resources and capacity to establish effective identification procedures, search mechanisms for missing migrants and repatriation of bodies;
– Remind States that the responsibility for identification remains with them;
– Support projects that take into account and integrate the processes of identification of deceased persons and the search for missing migrants;
– Call for the authorities and relevant actors to increase coordination with civil society for their work, and establish civil society access to identification procedures and protocols;
– Request that the States concerned (EU Member States, Maghreb, countries of origin or exit) recognize their de jure and de facto responsibilities towards migrants, in particular to facilitate the identification and repatriation of deceased persons. In this sense, the IOM could facilitate transnational cooperation between the embassies of the countries of origin and the countries where the death or disappearance has been registered;
– Call for the establishment of effective and permanent mechanisms with a human rights-based approach to support the families of missing persons and survivors, so that all persons concerned are linked to the authorities and receive psychological assistance adapted to the particular needs of each group of victims;
– Call for the establishment of mechanisms to protect families and civil society actors involved in identification efforts from prosecution and criminalization;
– Call on States to put in place clear and effective legal frameworks to clarify and implement the different stages of the identification procedures and monitoring mechanisms to ensure that the objectives of the legal instruments have been achieved.
- لأورومتوسطية للحقوق
- Association Marocaine des Droits Humains (AMDH)
- L’Organisation Marocaine DES Droits Humains (OMDH)
- Association Aides Aux Migrants En Situation Vulnerable (ASMV)
- Réseau Marocain des Journalistes des Migrations (RMJM)
- Association Collectif des Communautés Subsahariennes au Maroc (CCSM)
- ASSOCIAZIONE RICREATIVA CULTURALE ITALIANA (ARCI)
- Milano senza Frontiere
- Borderline Sicilia
- Mem.Med -Mémoire Méditerranée
- Association enfant de la lune (Tunisie)
- Association pour le Leadership & le Développement en Afrique (ALDA)
- Association des Etudiants et Stagiaires Africains en Tunisie (AESAT)
- Ligue Tunisienne des Droits de l’Homme (LTDH)
- Avocat Sans frontière (ASF)
- Afrique Intelligence
- Ligue Algérienne des Droits de l’Homme (LADDH)
- Centre National de Coopération au Développement (CNCD-11.11.11)
- Anti-Racism Movement (Lebanon)
- Greek Refugee Council (GCR)
- Ligue des Droits Humain (LDH) France
- Citizens Assembly of Turkey
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
- Institut du Caire pour les Études des Droits de l’Homme (ICEDH)
- Aman against Discrimination (AAD)
- LIBYAN NETWORK FOR LEGAL AID
- ADALA FOR ALL (AFA)
- Belaady Organization for Human Rights
- Justice without chains
- Libyan Crimes Watch (LCW)
- Independent organization for human rights (IOFHR)
- Aswat media network
- The Libyan center for freedom of the press
- Libya Al Mostakbal
The undersigned organisations and associations call on the Government of National Unity to repeal its dangerous decision regarding audiovisual media because of the grave risks it poses to the diversity and plurality of the media landscape in Libya, as well as its threat to the integrity of any upcoming electoral process
On 15 September 2022, the Government of National Unity issued Decision n° 811 of 2022 on the conditions and requirements for audiovisual media activities. Decision n° 811 includes irregular stipulations that violate media freedom, such as requiring the approval of the security authorities or the approval of the Libyan intelligence service – and thereby allowing security and military authorities to intervene in the regulation of audiovisual media
The lack of independence of the committee adds to the seriousness of the situation. The Committee for the Regulation of the Work of Private Audiovisual Channels is supervised by the Department of Information and Government Communications at the Cabinet Office, and security agencies have a strong presence within the committee itself: it is headed by a former security officer and several members sit on the committee, including two representatives of the Ministry of Interior and the Libyan intelligence service
The permission to practice is granted by the Committee for the Regulation of the Work of Private Audiovisual Channels, which was established in March 2022 by a government decision, n°151 of 2022. Permission is granted after media outlets meet a set of conditions that determine the legal status of media institutions and outlets that produce audiovisual content, and after they obtain a licence from the Ministry of Interior or the intelligence service or tax administration, and pay the required fees
The government’s decision requires that audiovisual institutions pay high fees ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 dollars for TV channels, and between 7,000 and 10,000 dollars for radio stations. These fees constitute unfair, prohibitive conditions, especially since channels are obliged to pay between 4,000 and 20,000 dollars each year to renew their licence. These conditions threaten the viability of media institutions, which may find themselves unable to continue their activities if they do not meet the approval of the security services or the intelligence service or because of their inability to pay the high amount of fees
The undersigned organisations and associations stress that while it is legitimate to regulate the audiovisual communication sector with the aim of ensuring the plurality and diversity of the media landscape and the transparency of media ownership, it should not end up with the government taking control of the media sector. The upcoming elections in Libya require that media institutions are protected from political tensions and from any threats of closure
The undersigned organisations and associations call on the Government of National Unity to withdraw this dangerous decision and to hold open and transparent consultations with media institutions, civil society organisations and experts to draft a decision that respects media freedom, independence, pluralism and the viability of the media
Here the updated list of signatories:
1. ARTICLE 19
2. Aman Organization against discrimination (AAD)
3. Libya Crimes Watch (LCW)
4. Adala for ( AFA)
5. Cairo institute for human rights studies (CIHRS)
6. The Libyan Center for Freedom of Press (LCFP)
7. Belaady Organization for Human Rights
8. Jurists without chains
9. Libyan Legal Aid Organization