Libya: migration is a product of the instability in the country

In a discussion about the possible role of the Council of Europe in rebuilding of a “State” in Libya, the Political Affairs Committee, along with invited experts, agreed that the priority is to put in place a minimal unified State and administrative structures.

« However, this is something difficult in a country which never experienced a genuine State. What place should game players such as the tribes or religious organisations such as the Senoussi, both deeply rooted in Libyan history, be given, » the rapporteur on « The situation in Libya - prospects and role of the Council of Europe » Attila Korodi (Romania, EPP/CD) said.

Participants agreed that if elections were to go ahead in 2018, it would be important to involve all stakeholders and recognise their legitimacy with a view to avoid further polarisation. At the same time, elections could not be held without a minimum constitutional basis. Otherwise a President with undefined powers would be elected, with all the consequences that such a situation would entail.

« The Council of Europe has an expertise in the institutional field, but how can we be useful in the Libyan context ? When ? Which tools should be used, if the Libyans ask us, for instance in the constitutional, electoral or media field without endangering the efforts of the UNSMIL, » the rapporteur continued.

« Political considerations have to prevail over legal concerns. The challenge is not to adopt the best possible constitution, but a text which will be accepted throughout the full territory of the country. Only a government which is in control can guarantee the rights of citizens, » Gianni Buquicchio, President of the Venice Commission, said.

« Possibly, the chapter of the draft constitution on the system of government could be extrapolated to allow for elections to be held before the constitution as such is voted by parliament and submitted to referendum before being enforced, » Lorenzo Kluzer, Senior Advisor of the European External Action Service of the European Commission suggested.

Commenting on recent video footage of migrants sold in apparent slave auctions in Libya, which provoked international outrage, participating experts explained that this has been part of the harsh reality in Libya for the last decade at least.

« The failure to properly integrate armed groups into State structures has led to their dispersion across the country where they run their own detention centres, outside any governmental control. These are the worst places of torture, » Matilda Bogner, Head of the Human Rights, Transitional Justice and Rule of Law Division of the UN Support Mission in Libya said.

Detention centres were indeed well connected to smugglers and traffickers and subject to the systematic violation of human rights. Forced labour and extrajudicial killings were commonplace. Arturo Varvelli, Co-Head of the Middle East and North Africa Centre at the Institute for International Political Studies in Milan, reckoned that trafficking in human beings, drugs and arms had turned into a main source of revenue and economic incentives were necessary with a view to have a substitute.

Participants also agreed that it was urgent to engage Libyans in all matters related to migration, as migration was a product of, and exacerbated by, the instability in the country. « The EU, together with the UN and the UNHCR, is trying to do something in Libya. We are trying to improve the screening of potential refugees, to provide access to detention centres etc. The alternative is doing nothing, » the EU Commission representative stressed rejecting « unfair accusations of complicity by Amnesty International and others».

« Europe is in a dilemma : the right to decide who can cross its borders and who cannot versus sending migrants back to a Libya, a country clearly not safe for them, » the rapporteur concluded. «Hopefully, the terrible pictures, which have shifted international attention back to the dramatic situation in Libya, will provide us with a window of opportunity to make progress in Libya, step by step. »