EU ; The ongoing disasters in Libya

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The ongoing disasters in Libya

- There are between
700,000 and 1 million migrants in Libya

- "migrants and refugees rescued or intercepted at sea being transferred to detention centres [with a] lack of traceability, transparency and accountability"

- "The government’s reluctance to address the problems raises the question of its own involvement."

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A Note from the Council Presidency to national delegations; Libya and the surrounding area: current situation and need for immediate action (LIMITE doc no: 115381, pdf) opens by saying:

"Libya is a major transit point for migrants and refugees travelling from different parts of Africa and the Middle East towards Europe, and an important destination country for African migrants looking for work. Conditions for migrants in Libya have deteriorated severely recently due to security concerns related to the conflict and developments in the smuggling and trafficking dynamics and economy, in addition to the worsening situation in the overcrowded detention facilities." [emphasis added throughout]

Despite the reduction in the number of arrivals in the EU from Libya through the Central Med route:

"On 25 July 2019, about 150 migrants died in a shipwreck off the coast of Libya while trying to reach Europe. It was the largest loss of life in the Mediterranean so far this year. According to IOM, 578 people had reportedly died or gone missing in the Central Mediterranean by 15 August 2019."

Up to 16 August this year the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG)::

"has so far rescued or intercepted 5 280 people at sea in 2019 (up to 16 August) and brought them back to Libya."

However, "the situation remains highly volatile" and:

"The IOM estimates that currently there are between 700,000 and 1 million migrants in Libya. 94 % of identified migrants come from 27 different African countries."

Detention centres

The most damning section of the Note concerns the "situation in the detention centres:

"There are official and unofficial detention facilities. The official detention facilities are under the control of the Libyan Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM). Libya does not appear to have an official catalogue of immigration detention facilities. Estimates of the number of detention facilities vary from 17 to 35, the majority of them being official facilities. According to the IOM, the estimated overall population in DCIM detention centres is around 5 000, and around 3 700 of those detained are held in detention centres in conflict areas. Some of the unofficial centres are run by militias.."

"The government has continued to arbitrarily detain migrants, many of whom are in a vulnerable position."

The Note admits that "the centres suffer from overcrowding and the conditions are poor"


"Severe human rights violations have been widely reported. Some of the detention centres are alleged of having links to human trafficking. There is no proper registration system for migrants. Serious cases of corruption and bribery in the centres have been detected. "

Another major issue is that:

"Another major issue is that of migrants and refugees rescued or intercepted at sea being transferred to detention centres and the lack of traceability, transparency and accountability.

Limited registration is carried out by the LCG at disembarkation points but disappearances are regularly reported by humanitarian actors.

The Libyan government has not taken steps to improve the situation in the centres. The government’s reluctance to address the problems raises the question of its own involvement."

"Major challenges"

"Major challenges also stem from the unwillingness of the Libyan authorities to cooperate to enable faster evacuations from the detention centres and to provide safe alternatives. It has proven very difficult, if not impossible, for experts from the IOM and the UNHCR to enter certain areas of Libya. The reluctance of officials to cooperate is closely linked to the widely reported human rights violations that take place in the detention centres and to the fact that the facilities form a profitable business model for the current Libyan government."

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