We are extremely concerned to read of on-going negotiations between European Union Member States and Libya regarding the possible disembarkation in Libya of the twelve migrants rescued some days ago. Returning rescued migrants and refugees to Libya would expose them to serious human rights violations, which is a serious violation of international and European law.
International human rights law prohibits States from sending persons to countries where their life or freedom are in danger, or where they face a real risk of torture or inhuman and degrading treatment. Furthermore, in the context of rescue at sea, international maritime law requires that rescued persons – whoever they are – are disembarked at a place of safety. In view of the current turmoil in Libya, which is putting the lives of many Libyans at risk, and of the widely reported ill-treatment of non-Libyan migrants and refugees, it is clear that Libya cannot be considered a safe country in terms of international human rights law or of international maritime law.
In this regard we reiterate the September 2018 conclusions of the United Nations Refugee Agency:
“In light of the volatile security situation in general and the particular protection risks for third-country nationals, UNHCR does not consider that Libya meets the criteria for being designated as a place of safety for the purpose of disembarkation following rescue at sea.”
The undersigned non-governmental organisations, acting together as the #DontLetThemDrown initiative, strongly urge Malta, Italy and Spain to make sure that the rescued migrants are not disembarked in Libya under any circumstances. We urge the three Member States to reaffirm their commitment to fundamental human rights, as international legal obligations and also as shared European values.
We also call on the European Union institutions to ensure respect of these core values, and of the obligations boldly enshrined in the European Union Treaties and other legislation.
Furthermore, we appeal for the immediate disembarkation of the rescued migrants at a place of safety in order to avoid further deterioration of their situation and that of the crew members.