A new internal EU report exposes Libya as a country in turmoil. The official assessment calls into question the EU migration co-operation deal with Tripoli, buttressing the position of human rights organisations who say that the North African country is not safe for migrants. Nikolaj Nielsen reports
An internal report from the EU’s border mission for Libya provides a bleak account of the country’s misfortunes, casting a long shadow over EU aims to control its migration flows towards Italy.
The assessment broadly echoes statements made by the UN’s Libya envoy, Martin Kobler, who told BBC Newshour over the weekend that efforts to deliver services to Libyans “is getting from bad to worse.”
Kobler’s comments follow the EU’s announcement last month to channel some €200 million into Libya-centric migration and border projects throughout much of North Africa.
It is not yet clear how much of that budget will go to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.
A European Commission official said on Monday (20 February) that they are still in the “identification phase”.
With over 180,000 disembarking from the Libyan coast last year to reach Italy, the EU and its leadership are largely seeking to offload the problem onto the war-torn country.
The EU wants to manage the flows through the southern Libyan border and within its territorial waters by working with Libyan authorities.
Libyan border management and migration is carried out by the ministry of the interior, the minister of defence, and the ministry of finance.
The ministry of the interior is riddled with “militias and religiously motivated stakeholders,” notes the report.
The ministry of defence “has little or no control of the Armed Forces.”
It also oversees a land border guard force composed of 18,000 soldiers. Loyalties are mostly aligned with local battalions or other larger militias.
The EU Border Assistance Mission in Libya was also unable to gather insights into the ministry of finance “pending further research.”
Of the 49,000 working for all three institutions, no more than one third are thought to be trained professionals.
The headquarters of the department inside the ministry of the interior charged with securing border crossing points is occupied by a militia.
Another department at the same ministry, in charge of ‘combating illegal migration’, oversees some 20 detention centres. Militia members count among its staff.
Other centres are run by armed groups, local community or tribal councils, criminals, or smugglers.
“The trafficking of migrants for organs has also been reported,” notes the report.
Big issues over security also remain, with carjackings and shootings in broad daylight that are reportedly common in the capital.
The report states that human rights defenders, journalists and judges are the target of assassinations.
People who object to certain views are killed either by government forces or armed groups and this is “tolerated by the government.”
Women won’t approach the police out of a fear that “they could be murdered or raped”.
The situation with security is bad enough that the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNCHR) doesn’t send international staff.
The main police force in Tripoli is mostly composed of “legalised” armed groups.
The criminal justice system has collapsed, with prosecutors and their staff becoming the target of threats and killings across Libya.
The Libyan National Police “is dysfunctional, understaffed and under-equipped”.
A warlord and a prime minister
The issue has pushed Libya’s prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj to ask for Nato’s help to rebuild its defence and security institutions.
Sarraj’s rival, a Russian-backed warlord by the name of General Khalifa Haftar, commands an army composed of militias and former units from the Gaddafi-era.
Haftar’s role has also unsettled EU foreign ministers with Malta’s government telling reporters in January that his advances towards Tripoli could trigger another civil war.
Haftar has so far refused to meet with the UN.
Asked if the EU has made any direct contact with Haftar, an EU commission spokesperson declined to comment.
Instead, the spokesperson repeated statements made by the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini earlier this month that the EU supported efforts “to facilitate dialogue” between Sarraj and Haftar.
“I won’t go further than that,” said the commission representative.