“So act that your principles of action might safely be made a law for the whole world”
At last week’s summit in Malta, EU leaders decided to allocate 200m euro ($215m) to Libya’s fragile UN backed government. The amount will help Libyan authorities to deter the flow of boats filled with illegal migrants from country’s territorial waters. In fact, however, the EU – Libya migration deal is very controversial and immoral. To clarify this statement, it is necessary to scrutinise several points. First and foremost, nowadays Libya cannot and should not be considered as a sovereign state. Unfortunately, today Libya is a failed/broken state, divided in three areas: Western Libya controlled by UN backed government, Eastern Libya controlled by Tobruk-based government and Libyan National Army, and Southwest Libya controlled by Tuareg tribes. Second, the EU-Libya migrant deal is another proof that EU’s foreign policy has not been consistent with regards to protection and promotion of human rights. Third, the EU-Libya deal clearly shows that the EU and its member states still are not having a real common solution to migration crisis.
There is no doubt that today’s Libya is a failed/broken state. The main indicators for this are the complete absence of the rule of the law and the lack of state institutions in the country. The breakdown of law and order has created anarchy and chaos across the vast country. Unfortunately, in this insecure environment a massive human rights crisis has emerged. People have been unlawfully killed, tortured, abducted and detained. Because of escalating violence and ongoing anarchy more than 400 000 Libyans have left their homes. In this context, it is important to note that lawlessness in Libya paved the way not only for the emergence of Islamic State in the country but also for the growth of human trafficking in the Mediterranean. In reality nowadays Libya is a transit country that refugees, migrants and asylum seekers from around the world cross on their way to Europe. Human trafficking in Libya is a growing industry, therefore it has been mainly organised and controlled by Gaddafi’s former security services, criminal gangs, militias including terrorist organisations. Smugglers often treat migrants as inferiors without dignity and respect. Alas, migrants usually have been physically and sexually exploited, robbed and harassed by smugglers. Migrants have been detained in detention centres across Libya that lack basic sanitary conditions. Looking from this perspective, it could be argued that EU-Libya migration deal is very controversial because it states that people who try to cross the Mediterranean and have been caught will be returned back to Libya, which the EU and its member states considers as a “safe country”.
Values vs interests
The EU always proclaims itself as a human rights and democracy champion. Nevertheless, the EU-Libya migration deal likewise this one with Turkey clearly shows that the EU in practice prefers to pursue national interests of its member states rather than to promote its values (human rights, democracy and rule of law). Therefore, the EU is keen to cooperate and protect its borders with the help of autocratic leaders such as Erdogan in Turkey, Bouteflika in Algeria, General Sisi in Egypt and even radical militias in the case of Libya. Looking from this perspective, one could argue that the EU foreign policy simply does not exist because on one hand it lacks coherence and on the other it has been crafted by member states. In light of this, it is important to note that the EU-Libya migration deal also reveals the fact that the EU and its member states still are not having a common solution to a refugee / migrant crisis. In practice, the deal represents an ad-hoc solution to the problem with human trafficking from Libyan coasts. Here, it is important to note that the EU-Libya migration deal will encourage human rights abuses and atrocities in Libya because militias will compete with each other to “catch” more migrants in return for more EU funding. In reality, the real solution to the refugee crisis in Central Mediterranean is to bring peace, rule of law and democracy in Libya. Therefore, the EU should be focused on the promotion of its values, principles and norms instead of looking for ad hoc solutions.