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EU/Libya: Full steam ahead, without pausing to think (1)
01 June 2005
On 2 June 2005, the Justice and Home Affairs Council discussed draft conclusions prepared by the Luxembourg Presidency on "initiating dialogue and cooperation with Libya on migration issues", which follows on from the technical mission to Libya on illegal migration that was carried out from 28 November to 6 December 2004 (whose report was presented to COREPER on 6 April 2005 and to the JHA Council on 14 April).
The process through which the Council intends to develop this cooperation appears to be pre-ordained, and shows an unwillingness to take into account any findings or concerns arising from its missions and fact-finding exercises which contrast with the assessment, shared by the Commission and Council:
"that there is a need for a comprehensive and integrated approach to migration in the Mediterranean which encompasses dialogue and cooperation with Libya, other Mediterranean partners and main African countries of origin and transit".
The draft conclusions call upon Member States and the Commission to "swiftly" implement a number of measures, which are divided into "measures to intensify cooperation within the EU", "suggestions for exploratory discussions with Libya" in the short and medium term, and "suggestions for dialogue and cooperation with other African countries".
Actions to be adopted within the EU include reinforcing "systematic operational coordination" between "national services responsible" for sea borders, the presentation of "concrete operational actions at sea" and "participation in upcoming joint sea operations". The ad hoc Sea Borders Centre is invited to develop "common operations in the Mediterranean Sea" and to consider setting up a temporary EU Task Force for which Member States could make "vessels and aircraft" available. A Risk Assessment Report on Africa is to be "swiftly" completed, Immigration Liaison Officers (ILOs) are to be sent to Libya, the ILO Network is to be strengthened through the introduction of exchange of information and working rules for ILOs posted to Libya, and the use of the ICONet as a means to exchange information is encouraged. Training for border control services on issues including asylum is to be reinforced, ways of assisting countries affected by "sudden arrivals of migrants" are to be explored, as are best practices regarding the "acquisition of documents and removal of illegal immigrants", Head of Delegation reports must be drawn up for the main African countries of origin, and the scope for organising a mission to sub-Saharan countries such as Niger to look at ways of supporting these countries in managing their migratory flows must be considered.
With relation to short-term dialogue with Libya, they should focus on "short-term action aimed at preventing further loss of life at sea", training programmes on issues including "basic external border controls, illegal immigration, asylum and human rights issues", organising visits to Member States by Libyan "decision-makers and practitioners" involved in border controls to explain the functioning of the EU, and encouraging Libya to take part in operational initiatives under the ARGO programme. Other suggestions include carrying out a "joint risk analysis on illegal migration towards Libya and the EU", defining a "search and rescue area for Libya" and to set up arrangements to save lives, exploring the possible avenues for intensified cooperation and capacity building in relation to migration management and the protection of refugees in association with UNHCR, and providing assistance for voluntary repatriations and to return failed asylum seekers to their countries of origin. In the medium term, the draft conclusion suggest strengthening the legal framework and promoting administrative coordination in a number of areas such as visas, entry conditions, residence permits, asylum and document security, to improve migration management, as well as launching a project to strengthen border controls at Tripol