With more than 700 deaths reported over three days last week, and with the confirmed 800, 000 more migrants waiting in Libya to attempt the particular crossing into Europe, it is becoming increasingly clear that Italy could become the new Greece in the global refugee crisis, and that the central Mediterranean could become the new Aegean.
The dirty deal reduce between the European Union and Turkey this spring seems to be working: It’s effectively shut down the eastern Mediterranean path to Europe. But it has also pushed these attempting to reach the continent on to the arguably more dangerous central Mediterranean route, which claimed thousands of lives last summer. Now we are going to seeing the consequences.
It’s clear that this turmoil will not be resolved in Libya. The nation may be ground zero for migration from North Africa to southern Europe – the result of a power vacuum left by Western powers following the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 – but coming up with a solution which involves this troubled country will be tough, to put it mildly. Libya is a failed state. Or rather, this is a jigsaw of four ethnic organizations (Arab, Berber, Tuareg, and Toubou) and several dozen Ashraf tribes without serious central authority to speak of. While a unity government as well as a draft constitution are in place, the previous effectively controls only parts of Tripoli, while the latter is littered with both procedural deficiencies and substantive flaws.
Libya is also a security nightmare. The Islamic State regulates over 150 miles of the coast around the city of Sirte, while dozens of militias vie for supremacy within localized, low-intensity conflicts throughout the country. The increasing military involvement of both the United States and its European allies in Libya is testimony to the concern elicited by the Islamic California’s presence. Were this not enough, Libya has a terrible record when it comes to the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers. The nation never signed up to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol; it is host to detention centers where migrants survive in atrocious situations; and it has signed up to appalling immigration deals with Italy under Silvio Berlusconi. Multiple reports talk of the regular violations, which include abysmal sanitary conditions, beatings, torture, hard labor, and even killing, which migrants have suffered in the nation.
Up until recently, European officials appeared to be discussing plans to strike a deal with Libya similar to the one cut with Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government in Turkey. Italian language Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, for instance , repeatedly claimed that what European countries needed was a migration compact with Libya along the lines of the one Brussels authorized with Ankara in March. Yet such a deal, for the time being at least, can be hardly a likely prospect. The deal with Turkey rested on the assumption that, with the right incentives in place, Ankara could exercise a baseline degree of control over its borders. Brussels should not worry about Libya’s willingness to fulfill the key provisions of a similar migration small. What Europeans should be concerned about, rather, is that the Libyan state – with its malfunctioning government, which lacks a bare minimum of administrative capacity – has no ability to fulfill them.
In the long run, Libya and European countries need to seek a comprehensive solution to this particular migration crisis. But with the high season for smuggling and trafficking throughout the Mediterranean almost upon us, an interim solution is critical.
Libya, which sits 280 mls from the southernmost point of landmass Italy, is the primary launching stage for those seeking to cross from Africa to Europe. But it remains only one variable within the broader migration equation. An interim solution for the present crisis needs a broader focus and should involve three geographic areas: Libya, the countries sharing land borders with Libya, and the Mediterranean Sea itself.
In Libya, EUROPEAN governments should pressure the oneness government to immediately sign up to the particular 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 protocol. These would provide a firm lawful framework within which all stakeholders would have to operate. Signing them might make it clear that Libya is ready to regard the rights of migrants under international law. And, crucially, it could mandate Libya to respect refugees’ right, in particular, to non-refoulement — that is, to not be returned to countries where they risk actual physical harm or abuse. Secondly plus where the security situation allows, the particular International Committee of the Red Combination, the International Organization for Migration, and the Office of the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees should be provided with all necessary means to massively scale up their presence in the country. In that way, they would be able to become crucial representatives for the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. Finally – and with the explicit permission of the unity government – the European Union should start patrolling Libyan territorial waters, while international humanitarian agencies must take over the management associated with Libyan detention centers where migrant workers are held. Because Libyan professionals do not exercise any meaningful control over the coastline and because they absence the resources to adequately assign the detention centers they are apparently managing, these measures would just technically – but not substantively — infringe upon the central government’s sovereignty.
Europe must also seek to form partnerships with Libya’s neighbors – a strategy it appears to be beginning to pursue. Countries sharing land borders with Libya have a significant comparative advantage over Tripoli when it comes to getting candidates for partnerships: They have (relatively) stable governments. Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Niger, Sudan, and Tunisia encounter tremendous challenges in a variety of policy areas, yet they have the bare minimum of what it takes to resolve those challenges: established state structures.
These countries are often the particular countries of origin or earlier transit for the sub-Saharan migrants which converge on Libya as a springboard to Europe. Crucially, the European Union has a well-established relationship with all these government authorities through the second revision of the Cotonou Agreement between the European Union and Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific countries. More specifically, the Khartoum Process regarding East Africa, the Rabat Procedure for West Africa, and the EUROPEAN UNION strategy for the Sahel provide local frameworks within which Europe and its particular partner countries can address immigration issues. These regular and organized dialogues between European and Africa governments provide a system of financial plus diplomatic rewards for African countries that proactively engage with migration problems. In particular, they’ve resulted in concrete projects that aim to discourage irregular migration by establishing readmission agreements while providing legal avenues for those looking to get to Europe, such as temporary migration plans.
It is about time for Brussels to further increase cooperation by providing additional resources to address immigration issues: Europe must enable its African partners to set up projects that will contribute to creating employment opportunities, ensuring food and nutrition security, improving migration administration, and promoting conflict prevention. The EU Emergency Trust Fund intended for Africa should substantially be increased for this purpose.
Europe appears to be taking steps to make migration control a cornerstone of its partnership with its African neighbors. Ad hoc immigration compacts are in the works with selected origin and transit countries, including Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria plus Senegal, and proposals are being made to launch a comprehensive €62 billion investment plan to tackle the long-term underlying causes of economic migration. The EU has renewed its focus on re-admissions to these countries, prioritizing speedy results for those whose asylum claims are rejected over establishing formal readmission agreements, which is a sign of Europe’s determination to push this by means of – though also a warning of the potential dodginess of the various deals in the making.
Finally, Brussels must do its homework exactly where it is most able to bring about alter: in the Mediterranean Sea and along Europe’s southern coast. The EU’s naval Operation Sophia in the south-central Mediterranean is trying to tackle migrant smuggling at sea. Its geographic scope, however , is significantly more limited in contrast to the Operation Mare Nostrum carried out by the Italian Navy and afterwards superseded by Frontex’s Operation Triton. This should be expanded again. Simultaneously, the mandate of the operation ought to be widened to explicitly encourage search-and-rescue operations on top of its primary aim of disrupting smugglers’ networks. On the Italian shores, Europe should intensify its support for Italian regulators engaged in the establishment and management of so-called migrant hot spots. Indeed, while Rome has fulfilled most of its obligations by setting up new headquarters and boosting its digesting rates, its European partners are usually struggling to make available specialized personnel for that hot spots and to relocate migrants currently in Italy.
The ideas above are only a immediate interim solution, however. In the medium to long term, the international neighborhood needs to address the tremendous underlying challenges producing chaos in Libya. The newly established Government associated with National Accord must secure the particular support of all ethnic groups and major tribes. Having done that will, the Islamic State must be rooted out through a very high-intensity yet hopefully brief and localized conflict. Finally, a minimum degree of administrative capacity must be re-established beyond Tripoli.
All of the above require significant engagement with Libya on the part of European countries that will probably take years to reap benefits. Until that is forthcoming, an interim solution must be discovered, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands of lives at risk.