Merkel demands better access to Libyan refugee camps | News | DW | 07.12.2017

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Merkel demands better access to Libyan refugee camps

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has met with the head of Libya's internationally recognized government, Fayez al-Sarraj. She said "there is still a lot to do" to improve migrant conditions in the country.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded on Thursday that Libya grant international aid groups better access to refugee camps in the country after meeting with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Berlin.

Merkel said al-Sarraj's government should allow officials from the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to visit camps under the control of his internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), which is struggling to assert its control of the country.

"There is still a lot to do," Merkel said, referencing recent reports of inhumane conditions in Libyan refugee camps.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution on Thursday condemning "heinous abuses of human rights which may also amount to crimes against humanity" in the country after media reports of migrants being sold into slavery.

Read more: UN: EU cooperation with Libya has led to 'unimaginable horrors' for migrants

Speaking to reporters, Merkel also said Libya should allow international aid groups to save migrants stranded in the Mediterranean.

Groups operating rescue ships had accused the Libyan government of hindering their efforts. The Spanish aid organization Proactiva Open Arms said Libyan coast guard ships had fired warning shots at one of its ships in August.

No military intervention

Speaking in Berlin, Al-Sarraj said his government was open to working with the UN at migrant camps in government-controlled areas of the country.

He said 20,000 migrants were being held in 42 camps controlled by the government, while over 500,000 migrants were being held in "inhumane conditions" in camps outside of government-controlled areas in the east of the country.

But al-Sarraj rejected calls made earlier by French President Emmanuel Macron for a European military intervention to access migrants in areas not controlled by the government.

"We don't believe in a military solution," he said. He called instead for increased support for the Libyan coast guard and strengthening Libya's southern border to Niger, where many migrants cross into Libya on their way to Europe.

The EU and Libya struck an agreement in the summer in which both cooperate in intercepting migrants crossing the Mediterranean and returning them for detention in Libya.

Read more: Evacuate migrants enslaved in Libya, urges France's Macron

Agreement on repatriation

Both Merkel and al-Sarraj also agreed on the need to intensify the repatriation of migrants from Libya to their countries of origin. Many migrants currently in Libya are from western and central Africa.

"We are open to working with all regional and international organizations to end the suffering of the migrants and to help them return to their countries," al-Sarraj said.

Merkel also promised Europe's aid for the repatriation, saying: "From Europe, we will provide support so that many can go home."

amp/msh (epd, Reuters, AP, dpa)