Migrant abuse in Libya overshadows EU-AU summit
Tunis- African and European leaders agreed on “an extreme emergency operation” aimed at curbing migrant abuse in Libya and combating human trafficking in the Mediterranean. Questions remained, however, over how they would implement the decisions reached at an Africa-EU summit or halt illegal migration from the war-torn country.
“We have agreed, along with the EU and the UN, to set up a task force for repatriating at least 3,800 people,” announced Moussa Faki Mahamat, head of the African Union Commission.
“It’s just one camp. The Libyan government tells us that there are 42 in all. There are definitely more than that. There are estimates of 400,000-700,000 African migrants in Libya.
Leaders meeting November 29- 30 in Cote d’Ivoire also agreed on forming a security and intelligence task force to combat human trafficking networks.
The measures came after footage was aired by CNN apparently showing migrants being auctioned as slaves near Tripoli. The footage sparked global outrage and pressured the international community to intervene.
There are concerns, however, that the new efforts will have little effect unless they are part of a broader plan to restore stability to Libya, whose UN-backed government in Tripoli has little control over large areas of the country.
“Two weeks of hand-wringing about slave auctions in Libya have been followed by two days of announcements designed to maintain the pretence of humanitarian concern, while keeping Europe’s primary aim — the closure of the central Mediterranean route — intact,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s director for Europe.
“The reality is that hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have found themselves trapped in Libya and exposed to horrific abuses, as a result of the EU’s intensive cooperation with Libyan authorities.”
French President Emmanuel Macron ruled out the intervention of French troops, calling instead for the deployment of an African police force in Libya. Such a presence would come up against the existing potential for friction between sub-Sahara Africa and the Maghreb at a time when the two African regions are trying to forge stronger economic, security and political ties.
The crisis has highlighted the void created by the absence of a unified North African group that could address the situation.
“Our regional groupings could have addressed the situation more efficiently,” Moroccan King Mohammed VI said at the summit. “We could have thought in this regard of the Arab Maghreb Union but this union is unfortunately not present.”
Approximately 3,000 illegal migrants are estimated to drown each year while trying to cross the Mediterranean on their way to European territory. They are mostly from sub-Saharan Africa but many are from the Maghrebi littoral.