Article: „Troubles mount for Libya’s Coast Guard and migrant detention centres“

[…] As Libya descends further into chaos and faces an ongoing monetary crisis, many of the country’s institutions have begun to collapse, including some of those responsible for migration Members of the Italian-trained and EU-funded Libyan Coast Guard told The New Humanitarian they are not being paid, and the Tripoli-based government is struggling to feed people in its often-criticised migrant detention centres. […]

As a major part of Europe’s strategy to stop smuggling, EU countries (led by Italy) have spent more than 90 million euros ($97 million) since 2017 on providing training, equipment, ships, and assistance to the Libyan Coast Guard.

Earlier this month, Italy renewed the Memorandum of Understanding that governs its cooperation with the GNA authorities. The renewal, and the initiative in general, has been knocked by rights groups, given that the Coast Guard regularly returns the people it intercepts at sea to migrant detention centres back on land. […]

A questionable partnership

The EU’s cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard – part of a programme called “integrated border management and migration management to Libya” – has come under heavy scrutiny.

Most of the money has come from the EU Trust Fund for Africa and from Italy, which has taken the lead in working with the GNA-affiliated force.

But Italy does not directly pay salaries and – despite denials of any problems with payments from the Coast Guard spokesperson – three officers insisted they were not being paid. An early February statement from the GNA’s Ministry of Finance said some public officials were not being paid.

“I have not been paid my salary for four months now, and this will be the fifth month,” one of the officers, based in the Mediterranean port city of Khoms, told TNH. […]

Detention centres

The UN estimates that some 3,200 migrants are being held in detention centres officially run by the GNA-affiliated DCIM and controlled by armed groups in the west of the country. Other sources put the number closer to 5,000, and it is unclear how many migrants are being held elsewhere, either in parts of the country the GNA does not control, or in locations humanitarians are simply not aware of.

Even before the past months of fighting worsened Libya’s downward spiral, conditions inside the centres were desperate. […]

There was already a lack of sufficient food in the centres – the UN report highlighted widespread malnutrition – but now, according to sources inside the DCIM, some migrants are not being detained because there is nothing to feed them at all.

Two sources in the DCIM said the company contracted by the GNA to bring food to the detention centres has been unable to work for more than two months in the west of the country due to the deteriorating security situation. Another source in the DCIM contested this allegation, and said the reason for the lack of food was that the government had not paid the catering company. {…]

Many migrants are still being brought to detention centres after they are intercepted at sea, but in other cases, DCIM sources said, intercepted migrants were not being detained because the centres were too dangerous to reach or because there was no way to provide them with even the most basic services.

“It has happened in the past that we couldn’t reach the DCIM and we were not able to bring people to the detention centre,” said a Coast Guard spokesperson. […]

The New Humanitarian | 26.02.2020

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