The evacuation plan for African migrants from Libya

2017/12/03 Issue: 134 Page: 6

The Arab Weekly

European and African leaders announced an emergency evacuation operation for African migrants in Libya but this may be easier said than done.

The plan, released at the end of the fifth Africa-European Union summit in Cote d’Ivoire, was a sign the gathered leaders recognised the need to be seen doing something. There has been global outrage over CNN footage of what was purported to be a slave auction in Libya.

However, the evacuation plan is problematic, to say the least.

It is supposed to be implemented in coordina­tion with the UN-backed government in Tripoli but this authority is yet to prove it can control large areas of Libyan territory or rein in criminal networks.

Evacuation is supposed to be voluntary and it is unclear how many of the approximately 400,000 African migrants in Libya would agree to go home.

Amnesty International said the evacuation plan was a cynical attempt “to maintain the pretence of humanitarian concern while keeping Europe’s primary aim — the closure of the central Mediterranean route — intact.” Amnesty’s Europe Director John Dalhuisen pointed out that the plan prioritises “voluntary” return but does nothing to effectively assess and meet asylum needs. It will end up as a “mecha­nism for mass deportation, clad in a humanitar­ian fig leaf,” he said.

Then there is the agreement by African and European leaders to act against trafficking networks. Obviously, this is the right thing to do but previous interdiction efforts didn’t help. Some say they may have contributed to the problem of African migrants’ sordid detention in Libya.

There are no quick fixes. The emergency measures will not stop the unceasing flow of illegal migrants. Insecurity in Libya will con­tinue to encourage trafficking of all sorts until a permanent solution is found to the country’s crisis. The Maghreb Union, as Moroccan King Mohammed VI noted during the summit, could have had a role to play. Maybe it is time for its hibernation to end.

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