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PV 22/11/2012 - 17.3
CRE 22/11/2012 - 17.3

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PV 22/11/2012 - 18.3
CRE 22/11/2012 - 18.3

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Verbatim report of proceedings
Thursday, 22 November 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

17.3. Situation of migrants in Libya
Video of the speeches

  President. − The next item is the motion for a resolution on the situation of migrants in Libya(1).


  Véronique De Keyser, author. (FR) Mr President, the issue of the situation of migrants in Libya is certainly not a new one. I remember how, not that long ago, when Colonel Gaddafi was still in power, the European Union was attempting to negotiate an absolutely shameful agreement with Gaddafi so that he would keep the migrants in his country, even though we were aware of the awful conditions to which they were subjected.

The fault certainly does not lie with the new Libyan Government, which has just been elected, but rather with the absence of any legislation, structure, culture or institutions supporting the protection of migrants.

Today, their situation is worse than ever: they are persecuted by ex-rebel groups, Katibas. Our aim is genuinely to suggest to this new government that we should work with them, side by side. It is up to it to create an institutional framework and to us, the European Union – and here I appeal to Commissioner Rehn and the High Representative – to work with the Libyan authorities to ensure that migrants are treated decently this time and that a distinction is made between asylum seekers and refugees and migrants working in Libya. This is an urgent humanitarian issue, in the best sense of the word.


  Ryszard Czarnecki, author. (PL) Thank you, Mr President. It is a pity that you were looking straight at me, Mr President, when you made that remark about keeping to one minute, because I always do. Such is life!

I wanted to say that this resolution is very important, because it does not deal with some abstract matter, but with people coming to European countries, though they sometimes travel on further. This matter has to be regulated. A question does arise, however. People used to flee when Gaddafi was in power, and when fighting was under way. Are people still fleeing now or are they attempting to emigrate? The question therefore arises as to whether the new leadership really is what Libyans had hoped for. This is an incidental comment to the important resolution I am proud to have authored. Thank you.


  Bernd Posselt, rapporteur. (DE) Mr President, on Europe’s southern periphery on the other side of the Mediterranean, there is a strategically important but dangerous region of the world, in North Africa. The Romans called the Mediterranean mare nostrum. Churchill described it as the soft underbelly of Europe. This very clearly shows the extent to which we are dependent on this region.

Libya has always occupied a key position in this region: as an energy partner, as a cultural, economic and geopolitical partner, and, not least, as a migration hub into the European Union. That being the case, we are relying on the new governance structures emerging in that country to be stable and democratic, so that we engage in good cooperation with them in all fields. For that reason, we must do our utmost to ensure that Libya’s fledgling democracy is established on a firm footing and assist it to develop an efficient system of governance and administration so that this young state can perform its functions effectively.

As regards immigration, one priority to keep this in check so that we do not have uncontrollable flows. On the other hand, we must ensure that these people are treated in a manner which is line with human dignity, that they enjoy their fundamental rights, and that Libya ratifies and can actually apply the international conventions which are essential for this purpose. This is not only a task for the democratic parties in Libya. It is also a task for us Europeans. I therefore greatly welcome this resolution because it will have an impact on the entire North African region and, not least, on the countries in the Sahel zone, up to and including Mali.


  Marie-Christine Vergiat, author. (FR) Mr President, this is an urgent matter and our concerns are prompted by the worrying reports received from several large non-governmental organisations regarding the situation of migrants in Libya.

I think we can say that, in some ways, nothing has changed for migrants since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, and, for many of them, the situation has worsened even. Suspected almost systematically of being former Gaddafi mercenaries, they have been imprisoned in camps run by ex-rebels. The living conditions there are appalling. We have lost count of the acts of violence and torture towards men, women and children, and there is no authority in Libya today able to put a stop to this situation.

The European Union and certain of its Member States in particular bear a heavy responsibility for the current situation, as they blindly entered a conflict without thinking about the consequences. It is regrettable that nothing was said about this subject in the motion for a resolution, especially as NGOs have not been afraid to criticise this responsibility.

If I had to pick just one example, I would say that it is quite telling that it took four months to learn the lessons from the July elections and to appoint a new government. Worse still, new agreements are currently being negotiated between the EU, some of its Member States and Libya. There is no doubt that the migration question will be at the centre of these talks. At the very least, Parliament should take a stance and refuse to allow these agreements to be conditional on readmission agreements, the terms of which are familiar to us, but it will not do so. The motion for a resolution is weak, to say the least, particularly in this respect, and that is why my group will not vote in favour of it.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))


  Bernd Posselt (PPE), Blue-card question. (DE) Mr President, Ms Vergiat, let me ask you this: does your group want to support democracy in Libya, or are you one of those people who are in mourning for the Gaddafi regime and, instead of supporting this new government, are determined to sabotage it from the outset?


  Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE/NGL), Blue-card answer. (FR) Mr President, Mr Posselt is in the habit of caricaturing my positions and I have no interest in that. He knows very well what I think.

I have been a human rights activist for 30 years. I do not need any advice on that score. I condemned the situation under the Gaddafi regime just as I condemned the situation under Ben Ali, unlike many in this Chamber. Mr Posselt should stop his insults. I will support the nascent democracy in Libya and nothing he says will persuade me to budge an inch on that. I deplore the behaviour of the European Union and its Member States. I deplore readmission agreements, which impose conditions on aid for development and democracy in these countries, and I stand by my comments. I am not the least bit concerned about Mr Posselt’s insults.


  Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, author. (FR) Mr President, the current situation of migrants is a legacy of the past. With this motion for a resolution, we wish to galvanise the new Libyan Government to action with regard to migrants’ rights and to make clear that we would like very much and are prepared to assist it in establishing new policies towards migrants and asylum seekers, as this is a crucial issue. Non-governmental organisations working in Libya have reported numerous human rights violations, including sexual violence towards children and women.

Finally, in order to ensure better protection of migrants’ rights, it is vital that Libya, which has successfully started out on the path to democracy, should draw a line under the past and the legacy of the dictatorship by ratifying international conventions, including, of course, the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.


  Kristiina Ojuland, author. Mr President, Commissioner, I would like to congratulate the democratically elected government of Libya that was sworn in on 14 November this year. However, there is a long way to go until we see a fully-fledged democratic country that upholds human rights, civil liberties, the rule of law and gender equality. I wish Libya success and the best of luck.

One of the most imminent problems facing the new Libyan Government is the situation of migrants, which is the sad result of the open borders policy of the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi. I hope that the Libyan Government may rely on the assistance of the European Union in alleviating the situation, as well as on cooperation with international organisations and NGOs. The UNHCR would also be of great help if granted a legal status in Libya.

But it is most important for Libya to ratify the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and for the Government to take full control over the external borders of the country and responsibility for the situation at hand.


  Seán Kelly, on behalf of the PPE Group. – Mr President, the situation of migrants in Libya is unfortunate; many of them sided with Gaddafi in the uprising of 2011 and indeed many of them may even have been sought out by Gaddafi to fight on his behalf. Having lost, they are in a precarious and perilous position. Nevertheless, something has to be done about it and there are three things, I think, that are required:

Firstly, we have to try to establish a stable government, which is hopefully developing; we cannot impose it but we can certainly do a lot to help. Secondly, Libya has to sign up to the 1951 Refugee Convention. This will give them status within Libya. And thirdly, where asylum seekers come to Europe and elsewhere the burden must be shared. I listened to the Maltese Prime Minister last week and very generously he said – even though it is a very small country – that they would not turn back any asylum seekers. In fact, 250 asylum seekers had landed the day before; but the burden needs to be spread to all countries.


  Joanna Senyszyn, on behalf of the S&D Group. (PL) Mr President, Libya is a hub for asylum seekers and refugees from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Under Colonel Gaddafi’s rule these people were exploited financially, forced into slave labour, persecuted, arrested, and tortured. Their situation did not improve in any way when that regime was overthrown, and is still desperate. Many foreigners, including pregnant women, small children and unaccompanied minors are still being detained by paramilitary groups and held indefinitely in inhuman and degrading conditions in detention centres or by armed units. The Libyan authorities must ensure that all foreigners, regardless of their immigration status, are protected against violence, exploitation, intimidation and abuse. They must ratify the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and introduce national legislation that is in line with international legislation regulating asylum and the status of migrant workers.


  Jaroslav Paška, on behalf of the EFD Group. (SK) Mr President, Libya has recently gone through a very complex period when, following a difficult civil war, even with material assistance from Europe, there has been a change in the nature of the state administration.

It is therefore natural that new, freshly created administrative institutions do not yet have a purpose-built comprehensive state administrative system. On the other hand, however, they should be capable of resolving the country’s most acute problems. In recent times, the situation of foreigners in integrated establishments in Kufra, Benghazi and Tripoli has become particularly critical. The extreme prison conditions to which even women and children are exposed with frequent cases of sexual violence give rise to justifiable concern about the inactivity of Libyan state bodies. It is therefore our duty to press Libya quickly to adopt laws to safeguard international human rights and regularise the position of immigrants in the country so that they are protected against violence, exploitation, threats, intimidation and abuse.

I believe that even the new Libyan administration is aware of the seriousness of this problem.


  Jiří Maštálka, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (CS) Mr President, the motion for a resolution on Libya includes requirements directed at both the new government and European firms operating there. I think that these are justified proposals and recommendations. However, I do not see in the resolution any reference to the main factor complicating the situation not only in Libya, but also in all of the other states where some countries of the European Union have been involved in a change of government and regime change. I believe that we should think carefully about what mistakes we are making with respect to the difficult transformations taking place in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya. It is not enough simply to advise, mentor, strengthen the military or humanitarian aid, which often ends up in the hands of a pro-European, politically close, but totally corrupt elite. The question finally needs to be asked, which we do not actually understand in these countries, as to what if our – sometimes even well meaning – advice and actions do not fall on fertile ground, but have a counterproductive effect.


  Sari Essayah (PPE). (FI) Mr President, Commissioner, Libya does not have a functional asylum system, nor is it party to the UN Refugee Convention.

Amnesty reports that foreigners with no papers are in danger of becoming victims of exploitation, arbitrary treatment and also arrests. Especially in this situation where the country is running without a central government, armed military groups and individuals throughout the country have gained the power to decide on the treatment of immigrants, without a legal framework. According to UNHCR, people have been deported from Libya without any opportunity to have their cases processed in a professional manner, even to countries where deportees are targets for persecution, and there is also a large amount of human trafficking.

The EU must underline the fact that Libya should protect all people on its territory, including foreigners, regardless of their status, and the government should be able to guarantee humane treatment and also safety from violence. Access to lawyers should also be arranged for foreigners at the stage when they apply for asylum and protection.


Catch-the-eye procedure


  Monica Luisa Macovei (PPE). – Mr President, while we welcome the return to political stability after July’s election in Libya, there are worrying reports about detention centres in Tripoli where migrants are allegedly mistreated. Democracy and the rule of law in this country cannot be separated from a functioning judicial system and equal treatment of all its citizens. The European Union must continue to assist Libya’s new democracy by offering financial assistance through its various Neighbourhood Policy instruments. However, we must always underline that our help does depend on the fulfilment of commitments, such as those relating to the principles of the rule of law and democracy.

I trust we can develop a good political partnership with Libya’s new government. I endorse Parliament’s call on Vice-President/High Representative Catherine Ashton to develop, together with the Libyan Foreign Affairs Minister, a comprehensive approach to mobility which will make use of the EU toolkit of human rights-based strategies and approaches.


  Zita Gurmai (S&D). – Mr President, while the first democratically elected Libyan government has just been formed, we should not forget the fragility of the local situation and the many challenges that remain to be overcome. The terrible conditions and severe human rights abuses faced by migrants should be a priority among these.

I am deeply preoccupied by the conditions faced by women and children, especially those who have arbitrarily been put into detention. We have received several reports of sexual and gender-based violence in those detention centres, where pregnant women, women with young children and unaccompanied children are being held alongside adults. Their lack of recourse to adequate protection makes them vulnerable to all kinds of exploitation and violence.

The situation in Libya was widely discussed in the framework of the last ACP–EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly in May 2012, and I underlined this tragic situation at that time. I welcome the implementation of migration programmes by the Commission and EEAS and I urge you to do your utmost to put an end to this situation.


  Cristian Silviu Buşoi (ALDE). (RO) Mr President, Libya is an example of how a country can free itself from tyranny with the help of the international community. The democratic transition is clearly not fast or easy in a country like Libya, but the country can keep its commitments should it accept our further support.

Libya’s rich resources such as oil attracted a lot of migrant workers, who were caught up in the Libyan conflict. Unfortunately, those foreigners are now subjected to abuse, their human rights are violated and some are imprisoned in unacceptable and terrible conditions.

With this resolution, the European Parliament must demand that the Libyan Government take steps to redress the situation and comply with international law.


  Mitro Repo (S&D). (FI) Mr President, Libya has taken clear steps towards democracy. Particular attention must be paid to Libya with regard to the necessary sore points concerning human rights. Many international human-rights organisations have reported human rights violations taking place in Libya, and even acts of violence.

Libya should be urged to ratify the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. This would also make it easier for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to operate in the country. Attention should also be paid to the rights of migrant workers.

The European Union should offer cooperation to Libya. A condition for this should be a democratically functioning government in Libya. The Libyan authorities are obliged to protect all foreigners from violence, deprivation, threats, intimidation and other exploitation. Hopefully, the benefits of the European Economic Area will encourage Libya to progress down this route.


  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (S&D). - (PL) Mr President, Libya’s geographical location and its well-functioning economy meant that the country became an attractive transit point for hundreds of thousands of migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa. The International Organisation for Migration estimates that migrants represent up to one third of the entire population of Libya, and the majority of them do not hold valid documents. Together with refugees, these illegal residents become the victims of exploitation, racial discrimination, and even physical violence against them by the Libyan population and authorities. They are unable to seek any redress from the relevant authorities or through the courts because they lack official status and entitlement to legal protection.

The government that came into power in Libya after the revolution promised to deal with human rights and migrants’ rights at the earliest opportunity, and to comply with relevant international standards. Ratification of the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and recognition of other agreements on international standards on respect for human rights would be a major step forward.


(End of the catch-the-eye procedure)


  Olli Rehn, Member of the Commission. Mr President, we are deeply concerned at the latest reports regarding the situation of migrants, asylum seekers and other vulnerable foreign nationals in Libya. We have raised these issues with the Libyan authorities on a regular basis and will continue to do so in the future. In reply, the authorities have acknowledged the problems and have expressed their readiness to address these issues.

The contradiction between these practices and the values that triggered the 17 February revolution is very clear. The EU supported the Libyan revolution from the outset because it was rooted in values that we share, especially of course respect for human rights and democratic principles.

The European Union will continue to be a strong partner for Libya during the process of democratic transition. Nevertheless – in this same spirit of partnership – we will not hesitate to convey concerns on issues of fundamental importance, such as those we are discussing today.

At the same time we are sensitive to the complex situation in Libya at present. Over the past four months Libya has undergone a period of political uncertainty with a caretaker government having to deal with numerous challenges, including a major security crisis, not just in Benghazi but in a number of other parts of the country. Moreover, it faces a long list of urgent priorities to address, including state-building, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of the revolutionary militias, national reconciliation, the promotion of the rule of law and the protection of human rights.

The new government was sworn in just over a week ago. We note our full political support to Prime Minister Zidan’s new government and trust he will do his outmost to address the different challenges lying ahead. As is the case for every new government – and in particular for Libya – the authorities need time to put their house in order. Nevertheless, we will not be complacent. We will continue to follow this issue closely. We will continue to press the authorities to ensure respect for human rights standards and we will continue to help them meet their responsibilities under international law. In this regard, I would like to recall that the EU is already providing a EUR 20 million support package aimed at improving the protection of vulnerable groups, including migrants. Further measures and projects in this regard are in the pipeline.

Finally, with regard to our assistance in broader terms, we are also preparing a substantial programme on the security sector reform as well as on the rule of law under the European Neighbourhood Policy instrument, the design of which is being finalised. The overall objective of this programme is to promote the rule of law in Libya by strengthening democratic control and good governance in the security and justice sectors. The specific objective is to respond to the needs expressed by the Libyan authorities in managing the process of democratic transition, especially in the security and justice sector.


  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place shortly.

Written statements (Rule 149)


  Ana Gomes (S&D), in writing. – In my opinion, this is not the best time to have this resolution adopted by the European Parliament, since the first Libyan Government resulting from democratic elections has just been sworn in last week. It obviously needs time to grasp with the many daunting challenges the country faces in a post-war situation. One of the appalling legacies from Gaddafi concerns is the mistreatment of migrants and asylum seekers in Libya: migrants were and are exploited and discriminated, many of them detained under inhumane conditions, subject to torture and barred from access to justice. Yet, the 17 of February Revolution was made to restore dignity and human rights to all in Libya. And Libya is, and will continue to be, a magnet for migrants and asylum seekers from all over Africa. This requires the new democratic Libya to ensure legal protection and respect for the human rights to all foreign workers, asylum seekers and refugees. The EU and the UN must support Libya in this effort, in the framework of assisting its democratic transition. I hope the new Libyan authorities and the Libyan people will take this EP stand in this constructive and cooperative spirit.


  Charles Tannock (ECR), in writing. – There is no doubting the importance of this issue; many thousands of migrants face genuine human rights abuses while incarcerated in Libya, and are subject to substantive discrimination when at liberty. But I have real reservations about the timing of this resolution: the new government, the first to be democratically elected in half a century, was sworn in literally a week ago, and has had no opportunity to improve the human rights situation for migrants, or indeed, citizens in general. Nevertheless, it is important that the new government finds ways of regularizing the legal situation of these migrants, or assisting in their safe and orderly return to their countries of origin. I hope that this problem can be resolved satisfactorily, as the new Libya faces many challenges in its reconstruction and transition to a multi-party democracy, and needs all the help from the international community that it can get.


(1)See Minutes.

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