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African migrants in a detention centre near Tripoli, Libya. Amnesty International said there were more than 20,000 migrants being unlawfully held in detention centres, where they face brutal treatment, including beatings, torture and rape / Photo: Courtesy of UNHCR

EU, African leaders agree on evacuating migrants from Libya

Leaders taking part in the 5th EU-African Summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, have agreed to an emergency evacuation plan to return migrants stranded in Libya to their home countries.

The EU along with the United Nations and the African Union on Wednesday agreed to jointly create a task force for Libya. A statement said its aim is to “save and protect lives of migrants and refugees along the migration routes and in particular inside Libya”. It will also work with Libyan authorities to crack down on traffickers and criminal networks.

As expected migration has dominated the agenda of the 2-day meeting, which takes place every three years, following the CNN video footage showing sub-Saharan Africans being auctioned for $400 a head by Libyans in the North African country. The report, which reminds of the trans-Saharan and trans-Atlanti slave trades in centuries past, sparked world-wide outrage.

Under the plan, initiated by French President Emmanuel Macron, evacuation of migrants from Libya will begin in the coming days.

Speaking with the press, Macron described the evacuation plan as a “concrete military and police initiative on the ground”.

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya greets French President Emmanuel Macron at the opening ceremony of the 5th AU-EU Summit2017 on Wednesday / Photo: Press Office of the President of the Cameroon

 

He added that Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the EU and UN-backed government in Libya had given “his agreement that access be assured” to “the camps where barbaric scenes have been identified”.

“What’s happening in Libya is a crime against humanity,” he said.

The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, and the Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration would also play a role in taking people home, German news agency DPA reported.

EU states would contribute financial “fresh-start assistance” to returning migrants. They would also resettle in Europe some refugees who were at risk of persecution in Chad and Niger, the DPA said.

Amnesty International said there were “more than 20,000 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers … being unlawfully held in detention centres” in Libya.

“They face brutal treatment; beatings, torture, and rape”, it said.

“The Libyan coastguard is stopping people at sea trying to escape these abuses, and bringing them back to detention. They are being trained, equipped, and supported by the European Union,” Amnesty added.

International organisations estimate that they’re between 700,000 and 1 million migrants in Libya. However, there’re no reliable figures of sub-Saharan migrants in the North African.

The EU is expected to pledge new aid money of up to €8 billion in Abidjan by the time the summit ends today to help address the root causes of migration – poverty and conflict.

The European Parliament has already adopted a €4.1 billion investment plan for the continent in September.

“There needs to be a true Marshall Plan for Africa,” EU Parliament president Antonio Tajani said in Abidjan on Wednesday, referring to a US aid plan for Europe after World War II.

Sola Jolaoso with EUobserver and agency reports

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