Aid group slams EU for funding ‘kidnapping’ and ‘torture’ of migrants

MSF says European countries' plan to keep migrants off their shores is "pure hypocrisy."

A July UNHCR report noted that migrants try to leave Libya for Europe due to "life-threatening insecurity, instability, difficult economic conditions plus widespread exploitation and abuse.” CREDIT: Darko Bandic/AP Photo
A July UNHCR report noted that migrants try to leave Libya for Europe due to "life-threatening insecurity, instability, difficult economic conditions plus widespread exploitation and abuse.” CREDIT: Darko Bandic/AP Photo

International medical aid group Doctors Without Borders has accused the European Union as well as European governments of funding the abuse of migrants and refugees in Libya’s detention centers.

The Associated Press reports that the group, which is known by its French acronym MSF, released an open letter on Thursday blasting the EU’s financial support for Libyan coastguard operations that turn around migrant boats, sending those trying to get to Europe across the Mediterranean into Libyan jails.

In an open letter to the EU, MSF International President Joanne Liu described the scheme as a “thriving enterprise of kidnapping, torture and extortion.”

“European governments have chosen to contain people in this situation. People cannot be sent back to Libya, nor should they be contained there,” she wrote, after a visit to one of the country’s 40 detention centers, where she saw people being beaten by a guard.

“This is what European leaders call success,” she told reporters at a press conference in Brussels.

EU officials deny turning a blind eye to the abuse of migrants in Libya, insisting that they’re trying to protect migrants and asylum seekers from being trapped in the clutches of human smugglers and ending up in refugee camps and detention centers scattered across several countries.

Liu rejected this premise, saying European leaders’ approach reflected “at best, pure hypocrisy and at worse, a cynical complicity in the organized business of reducing human beings to merchandise in human traffickers’ hands.”

The Italy-brokered EU deal with Libya is controversial in part because it also provides funds to several militia groups who also deal in human smuggling. In other words, the very people who took money from migrants to smuggle them to Europe are now being paid to keep them in Libya, in dangerous conditions.

Germany has approved a similar deal with Egypt, aimed at keeping migrants from cross the Mediterranean into the EU.

Amnesty International called the plan “a recipe for more suffering” while Human Rights Watch said that “deputizing Libyan forces to help seal Europe’s border before ensuring that migrant’s most basic rights will be respected in Libya is unconscionable.”