116 refugees considered "vulnerable", including several babies born in refugee detention centres in Libya, were evacuated to Rwanda on UNHCR organised flights. The group landed in Rwanda, where they were taken to a facility, and given food, medical care and other support. There are still thousands of refugees at risk in Libya, according to the UNHCR envoy to the region, as violence across the country continues.
Most of the refugees were from Eritrea, as well as other parts of Eastern Africa. Most were under 18. They were given an "asylum seeker" status as their cases are assessed. Some will be resettled in new countries, others will receive asylum, others will return to their countries of origin voluntarily, in places deemed safe, and some will resettle in Rwanda, according to the UN.
The UNHCR has, so far, evacuated 2,141 refugees and asylum seekers from Libya in 2019 alone.
After a week in which 5 different migrant ships were captured by Libyan coast guard ships including close to 500 migrants, the Guardian reported today that a ship with nearly 170 migrants headed to Italy capsized. The Italian coast guarded rescued 149 of the migrants, while 20 drowned to death.
Libyan Navy spokesman announced Saturday that it conducted 4 different rescue operations last Wednesday (Nov 20) off the Libyan coast. Specifically, migrant ships were intercepted near Tripoli, Garabulli, Abu Kammash and Al-Zawiya. All 284 migrants were taken to detention facilities in Tripoli.
The next day, it was announced that another 99 migrants were intercepted near Khoms port in a 5th operation.
Reportedly, one of those on board was a pregnant woman who gave birth on the Libyan naval vessel as it was heading back to Tripoli.
At least 6 bodies of migrants headed for Europe washed up on Libya's coast this Friday, while 90 more were intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard, according to the UN. The bodies washed up near the port of al-Khums in western Libya. Migrant smuggling ships are still being intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard and by humanitarian NGO's regularly, despite a decrease in the number of those trying to reach Europe, due to the cooperation agreement between the EU and Libya. The bodies may be of migrants who tried to jump from the same ship captured by Libya, and swim to escape returning to Libya.
A recently leaked report from the EU exposes the Union's admission that it does not have the capacity to monitor Libya's coastguard as it intercepts migrant and refugee smuggling ships en-route to Europe. The leak notes the EU's awareness that migrant detention has become a "profitable business model" for the Libyan government.
The confidential report details what awaits those intercepted by the Libyan coastguard and returned to Libya, as they are placed in official or unofficial detention camps. The report further details a range human rights violations, abuses and violence in a 13 page report. Yet, the report also lauds the "progress achieved" in the cooperation with Libya that has reduced the amount of refugees reaching Europe. The number of migrants from Libya arriving in Italy dropped from over 107,000 in 2017 to around 13,000 in 2018 and just over 1000 as of August 2019, with the Libyan coastguard saying it intercepted over 5000 individuals since the beginning of 2019 and until August.
The cooperation agreement between the EU and Libya, in which Italy is a central party, was recently renewed with an additional 5 million Euro in funding. The EU and Italy provide the Libyan coast guard with funding, training and ships in order to intercept migrant ships before they reach Europe.
However, the EU paper admits that "conditions for migrants in Libya have deteriorated severely recently due to security concerns related to the conflict and developments in the smuggling and trafficking dynamics and economy, in addition to the worsening situation in the overcrowded detention facilities."
The document also includes the following information:
Not all in Europe are happy with this outcome. Sophie in't Veld, a Dutch MEP on the committee, reflected that although fewer people are drowning in the sea, and fewer migrants are reaching Europe, they are instead dying in the desert or being sold as slaves or tortured or raped in detention camps... "meanwhile, people smugglers are thriving. No one in their right mind can call this a success. This policy is morally and financially bankrupt".
Challenging the common belief in Europe that the search and rescue efforts of European humanitarian NGO's encourage migrants to make the treacherous journey from North Africa, a new study, reported in the Guardian, shows there is no statistical correlation the two. The study, conducted by Italian researchers at the European University Institute, examined proactive search and rescue missions from 2014 through October of 2019, mostly focusing on activity taking place in the first part of 2019, during which European nations cut back their naval activity, leaving such rescue work primarily to NGO's and to the Libyan navy.
The study found possible stronger correlations between the number of migrants attempting the journey to the level of political stability in Libya or even the weather, and not to the amount or operational activity of NGO vessels at sea.
In 2015, the study noted that the total departures from Libya deceased relative to 2014, while the number of migrants rescued by NGO's at sea increased. After July 2017, the number of migrants crossing the sea dropped, even though NGO activity increased. The study further noted that in the 85 day period in which the NGO's were operating at sea, there were no more migrant smuggling voyages than in the 225 days in which Libyan naval vessels were present. Rather, the study pointed to the biggest decline in attempts in 2017 after the Italian government struck an arrangement with the Tripoli GNA government to stop the migrant crossings closer to Libya before they reach European waters.
Throughout the 5 year period in question, NGO's have rescued 115,000 out of the 650,000 who have attempted to cross the Mediterranean.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees - UNHCR - released its periodical update as of Nov 11, 2019. According to the report, there are 45,215 registered asylum seekers and refugees in Libya. 2,351 individuals are currently in UN recognised detention centres in country.
Since the evacuation process from Libya began in 2017, 4,252 people have been evacuated to Niger, Italy and Roumania. Niger is hosting 2,913 refugees, Italy 808 and Roumania 531. 870 evacuees from Libya remain in Niger, among them 135 unaccompanied children. Since September 2019, an additional 189 have been transferred to Rwanda. Through these countries, asylum seekers either remain or are resettled in 14 cooperating countries in Europe and North America. Over 6,000 individuals have submitted requests for resettlement since 2017. An additional 5,484 have found other solutions, including returning to countries of origin, obtaining humanitarian visas and family reunification.
The Times of Malta reported Sunday about a secret deal reached between Malta and the Tripoli based GNA government regarding refugee and migrant cooperation. According to the deal, as detailed in the paper, Maltese authorities will notify the Libyan coast guard as migrant boats head from Libyan territory to nearby Malta, with the aim of intercepting them before they enter Maltese waters.
The deal, however, appears to take things further, at times encouraging Libya to go beyond its maritime border into a grey "search and rescue" zone" which is under Maltese control. One such incident took place on October 18, which the UN is investigating.
Maltese officials rejected responding to this particular agreement, but noted that such areas are not part of the sovereign territory of a country, and that foreign ships "have every right to investigate any illegal activity departing from their coast."
Since Libya and Italy signed their cooperation agreement, the number of ships leaving Libya for Italy has dropped significantly, with an increase in the number of migrants ending up in nearby Malta. It seems the much smaller island nation is keen to put a stop to the flow of people to its shores. Some see the recent Libyan GNA seizure of counterfeit currency, produced by Russia and intended for Haftar, as a sign of this very cooperation.
Nearly 200 Egyptians illegally in Libya were deported back to Egypt. Immigration officials in Benghazi, which is controlled by the eastern Tobruk government, announced Saturday it was deporting the illegal immigrants, who had no official documents and infections diseases, back to Egypt, according to Chinese media reports. There are reported to be over 600,000 illegal migrants in Libya, with around 6000 of them being held inf official and unofficial detention centres.
Italy is set to renew its current cooperation with the Tripoli UN recognised government under which the Libyan coast guard intercepts migrant ships and returns them to Libyan detention and relocation centres. The deal was first reached in February 2017 in an attempt to slow the flow of illegal migrants and asylum seekers to Italy, one of the closest points for Africans trying to reach Europe.
The deal was set to expire November 2, 2019 and will be renewed automatically, unless one of the parties decides to end their cooperation. Italian foreign minister Luigi Di Maio told parliament that it would be "unwise for Italy to break off its agreement." and that "it is undeniable that it has reduced the number of arrivals and deaths at sea."
Some in Italy sought to amend the agreement to improve the humanitarian situation for those migrants returned to Libya, especially the resettlement programs.