GENEVA, JULY 23 – IOM Director General António Vitorino and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi welcomed as “much needed” yesterday’s discussions in Paris with European States on addressing the situation on the Mediterranean Sea, and preventing loss of life in Libya. “The violence in Tripoli in recent weeks has made the situation more desperate than ever, and the need for action critical”, said the heads of the two Geneva-based organizations.
“We welcome the consensus on a need to end the arbitrary detention of refugees and migrants in Libya. There needs to be a process of orderly release of people in detention centres either to urban areas, or to open centres that allow reasonable freedom of movement, shelter, assistance and protection from harm, plus independent monitoring and regular unhindered access for humanitarian agencies. In light of the risks of abuse, maltreatment or death, no one should be returned to detention centres in Libya after being intercepted or rescued at sea”, they said.
“The renewed commitment today from States to preventing loss of life on the Mediterranean Sea is also encouraging. The status quo, where search and rescue operations are often left to NGO or commercial vessels, cannot continue. An EU State search and rescue operation, similar to programmes we have seen in recent years, is needed”, added Vitorino and Grandi, stressing that “the crucial role played by NGOs must be acknowledged. They should not be criminalised nor stigmatised for saving lives at sea. Commercial vessels, who are increasingly being relied upon to conduct rescue operations, must not be requested to transfer rescued people to the Libyan Coast Guard, nor directed to disembark them in Libya, which is not a port of safety”.
The statement goes on stating that discussions on establishing a temporary, predictable arrangement for disembarking people after they have been rescued at sea, and sharing responsibility amongst States for hosting them afterwards, were promising. We encourage these talks to progress further. A joined-up approach to this situation is in everyone’s interests, said Vitorino and Grandi. Lastly, greater efforts are needed to address why people leave their homes in the first place, added the migrants and refugees agencies’ heads. While multiple conflicts in North and Sub-Saharan Africa continue unresolved, and development challenges persist, some will continue to seek alternatives for themselves and their families.
Brokering a lasting peace in Libya must be the overriding priority. The international community should use any leverage it has to bring the warring parties together in dialogue, and establish a political solution that restores stability and security. (@OnuItalia)