Evacuating refugees from Libya: MEPs call on EU countries to do more 

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EU countries must step up their commitment and speed up procedures to resettle vulnerable refugees evacuated from Libyan detention centres, said Civil Liberties MEPs after a visit to Niger.

Thanking Niger for coping with the challenges of being a transit hub for asylum-seekers evacuated from Libya, MEPs called upon those member states who have not already done so to pledge for resettlement places for these persons in need of international protection and to improve the security checks to accelerate procedures.

They regretted that due to the lack of such efforts, the process agreed between the UN, the EU and the government of Libya with a view to closing the detention centres was seriously hampered. 

Claude Moraes (S&D, UK), who headed the delegation, said: “Niger is at the epicentre of migration transit to Libya and then on to the European Union, and subject to high security threats. The continuous support for stability is therefore essential.

Niger is the most important strategic and stable partner of the Union in the region, despite all the challenges it faces in terms of poverty and demographic increase. The Union has to continue its investment in the country, which is critical for the stabilisation of the region. The humanitarian issue is such that we cannot allow extreme poverty to worsen and to let Niger become unstable which would lead to more instability in the region.”

Transit country

Migrants from all parts of Africa, including the neighbouring countries of Niger, cross the country on their way to North African countries and the Mediterranean or back to their countries of origin.

According to the IOM, in 2016, more than 300.000 migrants left Niger to the north, while 111.000 entered the country moving southwards. These flows have been reduced following the adoption of legislation criminalising irregular migration and human trafficking but other challenges remain, linked to violent conflicts in countries such as Mali, Libya and Nigeria.

Mr Moraes added, “we have deepened our understanding of the challenges facing Niger, and the Sahel region, with regard to the transit routes towards Libya and the Mediterranean, and the ultimate challenges facing the European Union.

We saw on the spot and heard testimonies of the suffering of migrants who have been detained, tortured and mistreated in Libya.”

Projects financed by EU funds

The delegation learnt about the projects financed by the EU in the area of migration through various programmes from the EU budget and the Emergency Trust Fund, carried out notably by UNHCR and IOM. They also took note of the ones financed by the EU and member states in the framework of the capacity building mission EUCAP Sahel, assisting Niger to improve border control and internal security.

Mr Moraes explained: “we now have a clearer view of where the European Union must address its resources in tackling the security, humanitarian, and fundamental rights issues.”

Composition of the delegation and visits

Head: Claude Moraes (S&D, UK)

Members: Anna Maria Corazza Bildt (EPP, SV), Frank Engel (EPP, LU) and Cécile Kyenge (S&D, IT)

MEPs travelled to the cities of Niamey and Agadez from 2 to 5 April. They met with Niger’s Prime Minister, the Ministers of the Interior, Finances, Budgetary Affairs, and Humanitarian Action, as well as other representatives of the justice and human rights authorities.

The LIBE delegation was accompanied by three Members of the Nigerien Parliament and was welcomed the President of the National Assembly of Niger. They had an exchange of views of migration and asylum issues with Members from competent committees of the Assembly.

They also visited UNHCR and IOM centres for refugees evacuated from Libya and for migrants willing to return to their home countries. They met representatives of EUCAP Sahel and Frontex, and local and international NGOs.