JRS: "A coordinated EU response to the Libyan crisis is needed now"

The evacuation of Egyptians in Libya by the Maltese, French and UK governments, and offers of aid by Italy are all welcome steps. Yet this response must not be limited to Libyans and migrant workers – the approximately 11,000 refugees in the country should not be forgotten.

The EU fact-finding mission sent by High Representative Catherine Ashton is a first step. In addition to ensuring concrete measures are taken to halt the violence in Libya and the delivery of ongoing and adequate humanitarian aid is guaranteed, JRS earnestly appeals to EU governments to:

  • Identify and relocate within the EU asylum seekers and refugees trapped in Libya; and
  • Develop an emergency plan to deal with the spontaneous arrival of refugees and migrants into the European Union, including the full activation of the Temporary Protection Directive (2001/55/EC) if numbers increase, and the suspension of the Dublin Regulation in relation to Italy and Malta.

While many migrants in the country are being evacuated by their host governments and the International Organisation for Migration, refugees have nowhere to go. Refugees and asylum seekers stuck in Libya are extremely vulnerable to attacks. In the past days, JRS has received reports of innocent sub-Saharan Africans being beaten, stabbed and even killed, as they are wrongly suspected of being mercenaries hired by Gaddafi to kill Libyans.

Since mid-February, approximately 180,000 people have fled Libya, with thousands arriving daily in Tunisia and Egypt. Mediterranean nations cannot be expected to bear the responsibility of protecting these refugees alone. In times of crisis, European nations are called upon to demonstrate their commitment to the respect of human dignity and rights.

The 1951 refugee convention is based on the principle of responsibility sharing. Where states evade this responsibility, it is refugees who pay the consequences. If Tunisia can offer protection to tens of thousands of men, women and children fleeing generalised violence, European governments should be in a position to ease the suffering of the most vulnerable.