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The EU defends its migrant balance sheet in Libya over allegations by the UN team

BRUSSELS – The European Union on Tuesday defended its record of alleviating the suffering of migrants in Libya after United Nations-backed investigators accused the 27-nation bloc of facilitating human rights abuses and other crimes in the largely lawless North African country .

Libya is an important departure point for people from North Africa and elsewhere willing to undertake the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea in poorly maintained boats in search of a better life or a haven in Europe.

According to the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 529 migrants were reported dead and 848 others missing off Libya last year. More than 24,680 people were intercepted and brought back by the Libyan Coast Guard trying to escape.

Investigator Chaloka Beyani on Monday presented a report from a UN-commissioned fact-finding mission to Libya and said that EU assistance to the Libyan authorities, the migration agency and the coast guard “has aided and abetted the commission of crimes”. including crimes against humanity.

The report said migrants, some of whom might be entitled to asylum, were “arrested, detained and disembarked in Libya simply to prevent their entry to Europe, as a result of both European immigration policies and the economic agenda of migration in Libya to their subsequent detention and exploitation.”

The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, said it takes the allegations “very seriously” but noted its work in Libya is vital and often in coordination with UN agencies such as the IOM and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights refugees takes place.

“Doing nothing is not an answer. And our goal, our common goal, is to help improve the situation of people stranded in Libya,” said commission spokesman Peter Stano.

“Of course there are incidents. There are issues that give cause for concern. We try to address them with the partners in Libya and with the international partners,” Stano told reporters in Brussels. He said the EU’s Libya mission had cooperated with investigators.

The report also said that investigators believe the EU and its member countries “provided, directly or indirectly, to the Libyan Coast Guard and the Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration, financial and technical support and equipment such as boats” needed to intercept and interceptions were used to detain migrants.

But Stano dismissed suggestions that the EU could pay to detain migrants in Libya.

“We do not finance any Libyan company. We do not give physical money to partners in Libya,” he said. “We provide a lot of money, which is then usually used by our international partners. A lot goes through the UN, for example.”

Earlier this month, the commission said it had recently handed over a new boat for Coast Guard service. Two more new boats and an unknown number of refits are yet to come.

At the same time, the EU renovated six more boats for the Libyan General Administration for Coastal Security, which is separate from the Coast Guard. In February, Italy delivered two more speedboats to the GACS fleet. The Commission said Tuesday that 142 GACS officers have received EU training.

Italy, where most people arrive from Libya, has received at least 15 million euros ($16.3 million) in EU money to fund migration and border control work there.

Last year, the EU’s home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, said in a written response to a question from the European Parliament that “over the period 2014-20, the EU provided around 700 million euros ($760 million) to Libya, including 59 million euros ($64 million). )” for the Coast Guard and GACS.

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