Legal pathways for refugees to Europe: developments and challenges
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Thousands of migrants and refugees trapped in Libya
In light of the increasing clashes in and around Tripoli, the international community has voiced its alarm over the worsening living conditions of migrants, particularly since the bombing of a detention centre in early July.
As early as 9 April, Federica Mogherini, the former head of European diplomacy, urged all parties to put an end to hostilities and on 13 May the EU Foreign Affairs Council voiced its concern over the impact of military action on civilians in Tripoli. It called for a ceasefire and for the Libyan government of national unity, recognised by the UN, and the Libyan National Army to return to the negotiating table, under the aegis of the United Nations. At the same time, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) made numerous statements denouncing the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country and its consequences on the living conditions of refugees and migrants.
With regard to detention camps, on 14 May, UNHCR indicated that food was in short supply and that water and sanitation facilities were in disrepair. These conditions deteriorated further with the intensification of fighting in the Libyan capital and the bombing of a detention centre in Tadjourah, east of Tripoli, on the night of 2 to 3 July, which resulted in the deaths of 53 people. On 9 July, while they were participating in a hunger strike to demand better protection from UNHCR, around 300 people who were still present in the centre were released by the Libyan guards. Following the attack, the Libyan Government of National Unity announced that it was considering closing 15 of these centres, while the Libyan National Army declared its readiness to cooperate in the “immediate evacuation” of migrants trapped in the eight centres located in areas under its control. However, by mid-July, about 5,800 migrants and refugees continued to be locked in 24 detention centres across the country.
Given that the UN Security Council failed to pass a resolution condemning the attack on Tadjourah and to establish a ceasefire because of a US veto, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration have, on multiple occasions, urged the international community to establish humanitarian corridors to evacuate migrants and refugees in the country, and have requested European countries to relaunch relief operations in the Mediterranean.
On 25 July, the sinking of a boat off Libya which reportedly resulted in the deaths of around 150 migrants, led to renewed calls for “immediate action” in the Mediterranean.