EU-Libya: The humanitarian fleet #United4Med calls on Europe to open its ports to the people rescued by the fishing boat Nuestra Madre de Loreto and condemns the negotiations between Spain and Libya

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The humanitarian fleet #United4Med calls on Europe to open its ports to the people rescued by the fishing boat Nuestra Madre de Loreto and condemns the negotiations between Spain and Libya
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Statement published by #United4Med coalition on 27 November 2018. Translation by Statewatch.
Open Arms, Sea Watch and Mediterranea strongly condemn the negotiations between the countries of the European Union and Libya to return to the latter country the people rescued by the fishing boat Nuestra Madre de Loreto.

Libya is not a safe country and has not signed the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees. The EU and its Member States have the obligation to NOT authorise the disembarkation of people in a country where systematic violations of human rights, torture and trafficking in persons takes place, as has been confirmed by numerous UN reports. UNHCR has published an official recommendation to States on non-refoulement to Libyan territory, a country that is considered, alongside Yemen, a place to which vulnerable people should not be returned (see in particular paragraph 9). [1]

The alliance #United4Med considers that the Spanish government must call on Italy and Malta to open their ports and to comply with the international conventions that the three countries have signed. Furthermore, the executives of every country must defend the right to life above all, instead of blaming those that defend it.

We call for a solution to the situation of Nuestra Madre de Loreto as quickly as possible in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the rescued people and the crew. We would also like to publicly express our support and recognition of the behaviour of the fishermen. Their refusal to return these people to Libya means that this case will not set a dangerous precedent in any similar situations in the future.

The members of the three organisations place themselves at the disposal of Nuestra Madre de Loreto for whatever they may need, as well as at the disposal of the authorities - as long as they defend human rights and commit not to return anybody to the hell of Libya.

The teams of Mediterranea, Open Arms and Sea-Watch
Barcelona, 27 November 2018


EU states leave Spanish fishermen stuck with migrants (EUobserver, link):

"A Spanish fishing boat, the Nuestra Madre Loreto, has been stuck out at sea for six days after rescuing 12 African asylum seekers from a dinghy because no EU country has agreed to take them in, AFP reports. Italy and Malta told the boat's captain, Pascual Dura, to take the migrants back to Libya, but he said the migrants would "mutiny" if he tried. "We can't go anywhere," Dura said."


[1] Statewatch note: it is not entirely clear to which recommendation this refers. UNHCR published a 'position on returns to Libya' (pdf) in September 2018 which makes clear the organisation's concerns about the situation in the country. Paragraph 9 of that states:

"There are consistent reports of the widespread use of prolonged arbitrary and unlawful detention and endemic human rights abuses in prisons and detention facilities nominally under the control of state institutions but partially or fully under the control of armed groups, as well as in facilities run by armed groups with no formal connection to state institutions or with affiliation to the unrecognized “Interim Government” and affiliated institutions in eastern Libya. The vast majority of detainees in official facilities are reportedly held in pre-trial detention. According to reports, detainees are routinely held incommunicado, are frequently not informed of the charges against them, have not appeared before courts and lack legal representation. Torture and other forms of ill-treatment are reported to be “systematic”, particularly at the outset of detention and during interrogations, and has resulted in deaths. There are also credible reports of summary executions of captured or detained persons at the hands of armed groups. Detention conditions are reported to be inhumane both in official and nonofficial detention centres. The LPA recognizes the urgent need to address the situation of thousands of “conflict-related” detainees held without legal basis; however, little progress has reportedly been made in this respect. The UN and human rights observers have also expressed concern over the continued imposition of the death penalty."

Perhaps more relevant in this instance, however, is paragraph 42:

"In the context of rescue at sea and in line with international maritime law, disembarkation is to occur in a predictable manner in a place of safety and in conditions that uphold respect for the human rights of those who are rescued, including adherence to the principle of non-refoulement. When asylum seekers, refugees and migrants are rescued at sea, including by military and commercial vessels, “the need to avoid disembarkation in territories where [their] lives and freedoms (…) would be threatened” is relevant in determining what constitutes a place of safety. In light of the volatile security situation in general and the particular protection risks for third-country nationals (including detention in substandard conditions, and reports of serious abuses against asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants), UNHCR does not consider that Libya meets the criteria for being designated as a place of safety for the purpose of disembarkation following rescue at sea. The proposed establishment of a Gathering and Departure Facility as an alternative to detention does not change UNHCR’s position that Libya cannot be designated as a place of safety for the purpose of disembarkation, noting also that all individuals transferring through this facility would have to be evacuated from Libya for protection-related reasons, although this may not be an option for all."

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