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EU must end returns to Libya, NGOs say

February 1, 2019

Dozens of NGOs have called on the EU to end the controversial policy, saying it undermines the bloc's values. Despite several attempts, EU leaders have made little progress on a bloc-wide solution to irregular migration.

A migrant looks out from the deck of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms rescue vessel as it approaches a port
Image: picture-alliance/O. Calvo

More than 50 major organizations on Friday accused European Union leaders of having "allowed themselves to become complicit in the tragedy unfolding before their eyes" in the Mediterranean, saying more than 5,300 people have died over the past two years.

While German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war in 2015, other EU leaders have taken more controversial approaches, including blocking migrant rescue ships from docking.

Organizations called on the EU to:

  • "Support search and rescue operations."
  • "Adopt timely and predictable disembarkation arrangements."
  • "End returns to Libya."

Read more: Europe's migrant rescue boats face uncertain future

EU values on the line

Citing the humanitarian tragedy unfolding on Europe's southern borders, the NGOs urged EU governments to take decisive action in favor of the bloc's values.

"The rights to seek asylum and the principle of non-refoulement are repeated in the Treaties of the European Union, which also declares that the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights," the letter said.

Read more: Germany claims success with program to support migrant returnees

Libya in disarray

More than 1 million migrants have entered the EU since the height of the migration crisis in 2015. Despite several attempts, European leaders have failed to hammer out a bloc-wide solution to irregular migration and keep migrants from making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.

The EU has also come under increased criticism for allowing migrants captured off the coast of Libya to be returned to the North African country, where many are sold into slavery. Up to 700,000 migrants are trapped in detention camps in Libya, according to African Union figures.

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ls/aw (AFP, dpa, EPD)