Skrevet av: Stine Aspevik Bosheim
Late November CNN released a video showing human auctions and terrible conditions for migrants in Libya. The video shows that the migrants are being sold as work force for as little as 400$. According to CNN there are at least 9 places in the northern part of Libya where migrant auctions have been taking place, but the number is expected to be much higher and in other regions of the country as well. Libya has had problems dealing with the amount of migrants entering the country especially since the Syrian war, unstable situation in the Middle East and the Civil war within Libya. The migrants are mainly from sub-Saharan Africa and some Middle Eastern countries, many of them only passing by Libya hoping to go to Europe with the help of smugglers. Many migrants face beatings, kidnapping and enslavement, the latter now proved to be the case and reality for many migrants coming to Libya in hope of Europe as a final destination. After CNN report on the auctions Libyan officials have opened an investigation into slave auctions in the country (Lauren Said-Moorhouse, 2017).
Libya is situated in North Africa bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It has a population of more than 6 250 000 and is the 16th biggest country in the world (Leerand, 2017). Libya is seen as gateway to Europe for the many migrants coming from sub-Saharan region and the Middle East, in particular from Syria. Libya has become known for the dictatorship led by Gaddafi and the chaos he left when he departed. In 2014 a civil war broke out and the situation in Libya today is still very much unstable.
According to United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) there is approximately 755 000 migrants currently in Libya, 500 000 of them men (UNICEF). Most of the migrants in Libya today are from Palestine, approximately 290 000 of them. The top countries of origin after Palestine are Somalia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, Egypt and Jordan. This has been the trend since around 2000 (Pew Research Center, 2016). It is interesting to see the difference from 1990 when the top countries of origin were Palestine, Sudan, Germany, Russia, the United States and Syria. These statistics shows that there has been a shift in the migration trend from European and western countries, most likely due to work related migration to migrants seeing Libya as a transit country to a better future in Europe. Moreover, the amount of migrants has increased by approximately 100 000 every 10 years since 1990, but from 2010-2015 around 90 000 migrants entered the country (ibid). The increasing number of migrants entering the country, most of them Palestinians and Palestinian Syrians, correlate with the war in Syria that broke out in 2011, although the number of Syrian migrants were not as high. This also shows that although the popular idea is that most of the migrants are from the sub-Saharan region of Africa wanting to migrate for economic reasons it is reason to believe that most of these migrants from the Middle East are in the country due as a part of forced migration due to the instability in the region with the Syrian war and the rise of ISIS.
The EU has been working closely with Libya on an agreement similar to the one with Turkey as a way of controlling migration to the European Union. For the migrants wishing to enter Europe there is now few or no legal way to enter into Europe. This leaves migrants, including refugees, in a vulnerable position and at risk of falling into the hands of human traffickers and other people who seeks to exploit them.
Migration has become of increasingly political importance all over the world, one that needs to be controlled both through state policies and international cooperation and a problem that needs to be solved.
EU policies: External boarder control
Deal with Turkey
In March 2016 the deal between Turkey and the EU regarding refugees came into force. The agreement implies that migrants and refugees arriving in Greece will be sent to Turkey while the EU will be receiving Syrian refugees as a part of the refugee quota system from Turkey. The aim was to control the enormous amount of refugees entering Europe (Collett, 2016). The agreement is not uncontroversial and whilst the number of migrants and refugees in Turkey increases the number refugees being resettled within the EU are almost non-existing due to lack of political will and cooperation (Rankin, 2016).
Deal with Libya
After the deal with Turkey successfully closed one of the major migration routs to Europe, the EU has been trying to stop the massive flow of migrant crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Europe by supplying money, equipment and training for Libya’s border and coast guard as well as making deals with local groups in control on the ground “in a country still largely lawless after the 2011 death of Muammar Gaddafi” (Reuters , 2017).
Both the deal with Turkey and the ongoing attempts on stopping migrants from crossing the Mediterranean Sea has in the eyes of European leaders been successful. Since the agreement with Turkey came into force the number of migrants entering Europe as decreased dramatically and with Libyan and Italian border controls it has decreased even more. Both of these deals have been regarded as highly controversial and problematic in a human rights aspect, hindering refugees wanting to use their right of seeking asylum and leaving the migrants in the hands of human traffickers and at risk of beatings and enslavement.
Due to the lack of a united government in control of the Libyan territories the policies on migration seems ad-hoc or to some extent enacted through help from the EU or neighboring countries. Either way the solutions enacted does not seem sustainable in the long run.
According to the guardian many refugees seeking to enter the EU by crossing the Mediterranean Sea are being sent back to Libya were they face imprisonment (Faiola, 2017).
A way of dealing with the amount of migration in Libya is by sending them back to their origin countries. According to the CNN over 200 migrants from Nigeria were recently sent back to their home country with help from Nigerian officials and international organizations (Busari, 2017) After the news of migrants being sold at auctions in Libya, Rwandan officials offered to give refuge to around 30 000 migrants (BBC, 2017). This would mean that those in need of refuge would have a chance of getting integrated in the Rwandan society at the same time it is important to face the fact that Rwanda struggle with its own issues and already existing migrants. The situation in Libya is by many seen as inhumane and Rwanda taking a step to ease the situation could lead to others doing the same.
Burden-sharing was introduced as a principle promoting international solidarity amongst states receiving refugees (Boswell, 2013). This is an important part of the international regime on refugees and refers to the need of sharing the responsibility for protecting refugees in times of mass migration. Burden-sharing has been an important notice in the EU but the term is being used and abused by states to avoid the responsibility for instance by claiming that it is better to help refugees where they currently are situated rather than relocate them. To revive this principle is of grave importance to revive this principle to ease the situation on the migrants.
Where to go next?
The current migration crisis is not a crisis for the European Union or Europe. It is rather a crisis for the migrants and the countries they end up getting stuck in on their way to the EU. International efforts are need to ease the situation but due to lack of political will the international community is paralyzed while the migrants suffer under it. The deals with Turkey and Libya is a way for the EU to avoid the international legal system, making it impossible to enter the grounds legally and the question of the right to seek asylum is left unanswered. The migrants get stuck in Libya with no means of being able to go anywhere and at risk of enslavement. The EU and Europe needs to take responsibility for the situation the migrants find themselves in both legally and humanitarian.
The deals currently in place leaves the migrants in a dangerous situation and at risk of beatings, sexual violence and human trafficking. Many of the migrants currently situated in Libya are hoping to meet smugglers who are willing to take them to Europe. This means that many of those who have already been exposed to violence are likely to experience it again.
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