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Amnesty International urges EU to rethink Libya cooperation, citing ‘horrific’ refugee abuse

Amnesty International on Thursday urged the EU to reconsider cooperation with Libya over “horrific abuses” of refugees and migrants in the North African country.

Libya has become a key route for irregular migration to Europe in the chaotic years since the 2011 Libyan revolution against longtime dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi.

The EU has backed a controversial agreement for Italy to finance and train the Libyan coastguard.

But the International Organisation for Migration and others have long warned that it is not safe for migrants to be returned to the conflict-ravaged country.

“Instead of being protected, they are met with a catalogue of appalling human rights abuses,” said Diana Eltahawy, deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“Even in 2020 the EU and its member states continue to implement policies trapping tens of thousands of men, women and children in a vicious cycle of abuse.”

“The EU and its member states must completely reconsider their co-operation with Libyan authorities, making any further support conditional on immediate action to stop horrific abuses against refugees and migrants,” Eltahawy said in a statement.

The UK-based rights group’s remarks came after the European Commission on Wednesday announced a long-awaited proposal for asylum policy for the bloc.

Amnesty also unveiled a report detailing accounts of the unlawful killings of migrants and refugees in Libya, as well as enforced disappearances, torture, rape, arbitrary detention and “forced labour and exploitation at the hands of state and non-state actors in a climate of near-total impunity”.

The report also details “the summary deportation of thousands of refugees and migrants from Libya’s eastern regions”.

“Driven by a desire to stop arrivals at all costs, EU states have offered their support to Libya… without conditioning it upon strict human rights guarantees,” Amnesty said.

“Refugees and migrants risk their lives at sea seeking safety in Europe, only to be intercepted, transferred back to Libya and delivered to the same abuses they sought to escape,” the UK-based rights group said.

Libyan authorities’ promises to investigate crimes against refugees and migrants “have not led to accountability”, it added.

The European Commission Wednesday sought to rally sceptical EU member states around a plan to better share responsibility for settling refugees and deport rejected asylum seekers.

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