• Press Release

Italy ready to consign refugees and migrants to horrific abuse in Libyan detention centres

August 2, 2017

LAMPEDUSA, ITALY - MAY 24: Refugees and migrants are seen swimming and yelling for assistance from crew members from the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) 'Phoenix' vessel after a wooden boat bound for Italy carrying more than 500 people capsized on May 24, 2017 off Lampedusa, Italy. Numbers of refugees and migrants attempting the dangerous central Mediterranean crossing from Libya to Italy has risen since the same time last year with more than 43,000 people recorded so far in 2017. In an attempt to slow the flow of migrants Italy recently signed a deal with Libya, Chad and Niger outlining a plan to increase border controls and add new reception centers in the African nations, which are key transit points for migrants heading to Italy. MOAS is a Malta based NGO dedicated to providing professional search-and-rescue assistance to refugees and migrants in distress at sea. Since the start of the year MOAS have rescued and assisted 3572 people and are currently patrolling and running rescue operations in international waters off the coast of Libya. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Responding to news that the Italian parliament has voted in favour of deploying warships in Libyan waters to support the Libyan coastguard in the interception and return of refugees and migrants to Libya, Amnesty International’s Deputy Europe Director Gauri Van Gulik said:

“The Italian authorities have shown today that they consider it more important to keep refugees and migrants away from their shores than to protect their lives and welfare. Facilitating the interception and return  of refugees and migrants to Libya results in their arbitrary detention in centres where they are at almost certain risk of torture, rape and even of being killed, and today’s vote could make the Italian authorities complicit in these horrors.”

“Italy, along with other EU member states, should be focusing on increasing its search and rescue operations. Instead it has chosen to shirk its responsibilities and endanger the very people it says it is trying to help, including by providing military cover and support to the Libyan coastguard, whose reckless and abusive conduct against refugees and migrants during interceptions has been repeatedly documented, including by Amnesty International. Italy has also, with EU backing, put ties on the ability of NGOs to rescue people at sea, demonstrating just how misguided its whole approach is.

“This is not the answer to the humanitarian crisis in the central Mediterranean – it is a recipe for more suffering. Any cooperation with the Libyan authorities should prioritize monitoring and accountability for any human rights violations they have committed. It should also be conditional on verifiable commitments by the Libyan authorities to improve conditions for refugees and migrants in Libya.”