A confidential European Union military report calls for the continuation of a contentious EU programme to train and equip Libya’s coast guard and navy, despite growing concerns about their treatment of migrants, an increasing death toll at sea, and the North African nation’s continued lack of central authority.
The study, which was distributed to EU officials this month and obtained by The Associated Press, provides a rare glimpse into Europe’s willingness to assist Libya in intercepting and returning tens of thousands of men, women, and children to Libya, where they risk inhumane treatment.
The assessment, compiled by Italian navy Rear Adm. Stefano Turchetto, commander of the EU arms embargo surveillance mission, or Operation Irini, acknowledges Libyan authorities’ “excessive use of force,” but adds that EU training is “no longer fully implemented.”
Hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking to reach Europe have passed through Libya, where a lucrative trafficking and smuggling business has flourished in a country that has been divided for years between rival administrations in the east and west, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.
The EU report acknowledges that Libya’s “political stalemate” has hampered Europe’s training programme, noting that the country’s internal divisions make obtaining political support for enforcing “proper behavioural standards… compliant with human rights, especially when dealing with irregular migrants” difficult.
The European Commission and the EU’s External Action Service — the equivalent of the EU’s foreign ministry — also declined to comment on the report. However, spokesperson Peter Stano acknowledged that the EU is keen to educate coast guard officers and strengthen Libya’s capabilities to oversee a vast Mediterranean search-and-rescue region.