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Commissioner calls on the Italian government to suspend the co-operation activities in place with the Libyan Coast Guard that impact on the return of persons intercepted at sea to Libya

Statement
Strasbourg 31/01/2020
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“The Memorandum of Understanding between Italy and Libya will be renewed automatically next 2 February. I regret that the Italian authorities have not scrapped that agreement or - as a minimum - changed its terms,” said today the Commissioner.

“As I have already stressed on several occasions, and in particular in my Recommendation of June 2019 and in my observations in a case before the European Court of Human Rights in November 2019, certain types of assistance provided to the Libyan Coast Guard have resulted in increased returns of migrants, including asylum seekers, to Libya, where they have suffered from serious human rights violations.

An armed conflict is now worsening the safety situation in Libya and a great amount of evidence continues to point to serious human rights violations faced there by migrants and asylum seekers.

I therefore call on the Italian government to urgently suspend the co-operation activities in place with the Libyan Coast Guard that impact, directly or indirectly, on the return of persons intercepted at sea to Libya until clear guarantees of human rights compliance are in place. They should also postpone any additional support to the Libyan Coast Guard until the latter can ensure respect for human rights. In the meantime, Italy, as well as other member states, should support the efforts of international organisations to secure the release of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from places of detention in Libya, and facilitate the creation of safe humanitarian corridors. To prevent further deaths at sea, they also need to make sure enough ships specifically dedicated to search and rescue are deployed in the Mediterranean.

Thousands of human beings have risked their lives to seek protection. It is shameful that we turn a blind eye to them. This tragedy has gone on for too long now, and European countries have contributed to it. It is urgent that Italy, the EU and all its member states take action to put an end to it.”