Italy Libya Migration Agreement

By Mark, December 11, 2020

At least 36,000 people have been intercepted by the Libyan coastguard since the agreement was signed and brought back to Libya, according to UNHCR figures. On 2 February, Italy and Libya renewed their agreement on the management of migration in the central Mediterranean and extended for three years. Despite calls by human rights groups such as Médecins Sans Frontières and Amnesty International, and despite promises by Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio to improve it “with particular attention to migrants` centres and conditions,” the agreement was renewed without change. The agreement, in its original version, provides for Italy to train, equip and assist the Libyan coastguard in intercepting people at sea so that they can be repatriated to detention centres in Libya. Migrants and asylum seekers face serious human rights violations, including abuse, rape and torture. In addition, conditions in Libya have deteriorated as a result of the escalation of the ongoing conflict, so UNHCR is “suspending its operational work in the collection and exit centre (DGF) out of fear for the safety and protection of the people in the facility, its staff and its partners.” Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic said: “I regret that the Italian authorities have not abandoned this agreement or at least changed its terms.” It also called on Italy to suspend its support activities for the Libyan coastguard. The following section examines the nature of reciprocity in the Italian-Libyan bilateral agreements in the context of readmission and broader migration negotiations, assessing each party`s commitments. Of the three scenarios described above, which one best records their interaction: total reciprocity, uneven reciprocity or non-resistance? Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio has promised to improve the agreement, which is renewed every three years but can be amended at any time, “with particular attention to the centres and conditions of migrants.” Second, there is even less clarity as to the origin and destination of the funds. Article 4 states that “the Italian party will finance the projects mentioned in the memorandum or proposed by the Joint Committee without additional burden on the Italian budget” and “will use the use of available European funds”. The largest (in addition to the EU Trust Fund for Africa) will therefore likely be the Italian Fund for Africa, a 200 million euro instrument approved by the Finance Act for 2017 and which, according to Foreign Minister Alfano, has the main objective of “ending irregular migration flows” because “strengthening the borders of third countries indirectly strengthens the BORDERs of the EU”.

So there is some skepticism about the use of these funds to support development programs. Detailed mapping of specific amounts, projects and implementation partners, as is the case with the EU Refugee Mechanism in Turkey, would be urgent, including to counter allegations that funds are being transferred to smugglers to prevent boats from leaving the Libyan mechanic.