EU 'complicit' in human rights abuses in Libya: new report
Human Rights Watch, alongside digital investigation unit Border Forensics, has compiled years of drone flight data, eyewitness testimony, and interviews to accuse the EU's border security agency, Frontex, of breaking maritime law and putting migrant lives at risk.
Frontex regularly shares the whereabouts of boats in distress with the so-called Libyan Coast Guard (LCG), instead of NGO civil assistance vessels patrolling international search-and-rescue zones in the Central Mediterranean, ensuring boats are returned to Libya.
"By providing the information to Libyan authorities for the purpose of intercepting people escaping abuse in Libya, knowing that upon capture they will be returned to Libya to face arbitrary detention, violence, and exploitation, the EU is making itself complicit in abuse," said the new report.
"Almost one-third of these interceptions [by the LCG] were facilitated by intelligence gathered by the European Union border agency, Frontex, through aerial surveillance."
The Central Mediterranean is known as the deadliest migration route in the world, with nearly 3,000 deaths since January 2021, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The EU, Italy, and Malta have been criticised for years for outsourcing migrant interceptions and rescues to Libya instead of ensuring the safety of international waters and offering safe routes to Europe.
When migrants are returned to Libya by the coast guard, migrants and refugees are held in government-run detention centres where torture, rape, and killings have been documented extensively.
A UN fact-finding mission has found that the systemic abuse of migrants there may amount to crimes against humanity, in which the EU has been accused of complicity.