EU to consider plans for migrant processing centres in north Africa

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EU to consider plans for migrant processing centres in north Africa
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"The EU is to consider the idea of building migrant processing centres in north Africa in an attempt to deter people from making life-threatening journeys to Europe across the Mediterranean, according to a leaked document.

The European council of EU leaders “supports the development of the concept of regional disembarkation platforms”, according to the draft conclusions of an EU summit due to take place next week(pdf).

The EU wants to look at the feasibility of setting up such centres in north Africa, where most migrant journeys to Europe begin. “Such platforms should provide for rapid processing to distinguish between economic migrants and those in need of international protection, and reduce the incentive to embark on perilous journeys,” says the document seen by the Guardian.

Although the plan is winning influential support, it faces political and practical hurdles, with one expert saying it is not clear how the EU would get foreign countries to agree to be “vassal states”."

See: EU to consider plans for migrant processing centres in north Africa(The Guardian, link)

The document in question: European Council meeting (28 June 2018 - Draft conclusions) (8147/18, LIMITE, 19 June 2018, pdf)

And: EU leaders consider centers outside bloc to process refugees (Politico, link):

"European Council President Donald Tusk has proposed that EU leaders create “regional disembarkation platforms” outside the European Union, where officials could quickly differentiate between refugees in need of protection and economic migrants who would potentially face return to their countries of origin.

The proposal is an effort to break the acute political crisis over migration and asylum that has bedeviled EU leaders since 2015 — and even threatened in recent days to topple the German government — even as the numbers of arrivals have plummeted since the peak of the crisis."

Support for Libyan Coastguard

The draft conclusions also say:

"Specifically as regards the Central Mediterranean route, efforts to stop smugglers operating out of Libya should be further intensified. The EU will continue to stand by Italy in this respect, and will step up its support for the Libyan Coastguard, coastal and Southern communities, humane reception conditions, and voluntary humanitarian returns."

This is despite ongoing evidence from NGOs, journalists and international agencies that the Libyan Coastguard and other key government actors supported by the EU are involved in human rights abuses and are connected to the very same smuggling and trafficking networks they are supposed to supppress.

A recent report on an EU-funded project investigating crisis response by EU institutions and agencies in various countries finds that (emphasis added):

"International experts’ reports about the alleged misconduct of Libyan coastguard officers – among which beneficiaries of EU-sponsored trainings are to be found – have raised doubts about the effectiveness and sustainability of this strategy – doubts that the lack of adequate monitoring and evaluation mechanisms do not address. Libyan coastguards have been accused of aggressive and abusive behaviour vis-à-vis both migrants and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) engaged in SAR activities (Amnesty International 2017; Spaggiari 2017). Libyan coastguard trainees have responded to allegations of improper, heavy-handed responses by claiming that “they wanted to make a good impression on their European partners”, and that “NGOs represent the greatest threat to Libya’s coastal security”. Moreover, official and media reports reveal that Libyan coastguard officers collude with smuggling and trafficking networks (UNSMIL and OHCHR 2016; Altai Consulting 2017; Amnesty International 2017; El Kamouni-Janssen 2017; GIATOC 2017; UNSC 2017a). Needless to say, the trend manifested by such episodes risks undermining any comprehensive approach to EU crisis response in Libya. The risk of being considered legally or morally complicit with grave human rights abuses and corrupt practices could damage the reputation and the credibility of the EU, thereby compromising its room for manoeuvre in the future."

See: EUNPACK Working Paper: The implementation of EU Crisis Response in Libya: Briding theory and practice (pdf) and: the EUNPACK project (link)

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