The European Union on Tuesday defended its record of helping to relieve the suffering of migrants in Libya, after U.N.-backed investigators accused the 27-nation bloc of abetting human rights abuses and other crimes in the largely lawless north African country.
Speaking at a news conference in Brussels European Commission Spokesperson Peter Stano said they were actively trying to solve the “very difficult situation on the ground” as well as looking into the concerns that were raised.
“And indeed, of course, we are aware about this, these latest findings. And we are also very much aware about the very difficult situation on the ground, which we are trying to solve…..We have worked also with the U.N. fact finding mission when it was in Libya, mainly through our delegation in Tripoli. So we are, of course, taking seriously the concerns they are raising. We are looking into it and we are working with it.”
Libya is a major departure point for people from northern Africa and elsewhere willing to make the perilous Mediterranean Sea crossing in poorly maintained boats in search of better lives or sanctuary in Europe.
At least 529 migrants were reported dead and 848 others missing off Libya last year, according to the U.N. International Organization for Migration (IOM).
More than 24,680 people were intercepted as they tried to leave by the Libyan coastguard and brought back.
Presenting a report on Monday by a U.N.-commissioned fact-finding mission to Libya, investigator Chaloka Beyani said that EU assistance to the Libyan authorities, migration department and the coastguard “has aided and abetted the commission of the crimes,” including crimes against humanity.
The report said that migrants, some of whom might have been eligible for asylum, “were apprehended, detained, and disembarked in Libya solely to prevent their entry into Europe as a corollary of both European immigration policy and the economic agenda of migration in Libya via their subsequent detention and exploitation.”
The report also said that investigators believe the EU and its member countries “directly or indirectly, provided monetary and technical support and equipment, such as boats, to the Libyan Coast Guard and the Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration,” which were used to intercept and detain migrants.
“Covering the needs of the people who are in Libya, both the migrants, but also the host communities which are affected by this. So this is where the money goes. So I don’t agree with the claims that our money is going to finance the business model of the smugglers or of those who are misusing and mistreating people in Libya, quite to the contrary. Most of the money goes in order to take care of these very people.” added Peter Stano.