How the EU Can Manage the Migrant Flow

Kenneth Roth at Human Rights Watch:

201707eca_libya_italy_coastNo one pretends there is an easy way for the European Union to manage the flow of asylum seekers and other migrants arriving by boat from Libya. Yet there are certain basic principles of human rights—and decency—that should guide the EU response.

The Mediterranean crossing from Libya toward Italy has become the world’s most dangerous. Some 103,000 people have survived the journey this year through late September, but 2,471 have drowned or gone missing.

What would lead anyone to risk such a perilous journey? Some flee persecution or violence at home. Others, fleeing crushing poverty, hope for a better life in Europe. But all have traversed Libya, one of the world’s most inhospitable places for migrants.

Divided today among three competing authorities, Libya has become a smuggler’s paradise and a migrant’s nightmare. Non-Libyan migrants seeking transit to Europe are typically corralled and kept in squalid, overcrowded detention centers where malnutrition and illness are widespread, and forced labor, beatings, sexual abuse and torture are rife. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that more migrants are killed crossing Libya these days than die at sea.

International refugee law prohibits forcibly returning anyone to such conditions, which is why boats rescuing migrants—whether operated by the EU, Italy, or nongovernmental groups—don’t return them. So far, most have been taken to Italy.

Some, such as Italy’s 5 Star Movement and the far-right Northern League, criticize these rescue efforts as a “pull factor,” but there is no evidence that ending them would deter the migrants from embarking. It would, however, increase the drownings.

Many of the other ideas offered for managing the flow have been similarly flawed.

More here.