UK-funded camps in Libya 'indefinitely detaining asylum seekers'

Tuesday, 14 March 2017 11:48 Written by  Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor Published in English Articles Read 261 times

Government watchdog says £10m has been allocated to Libya without studying the human rights implications

People in a detention center in Tripoli.

People in a detention center in Tripoli. Photograph: Ismail Zitouny/Reuters

 

British-funded refugee camps in Libya are implementing the indiscriminate and indefinite detention of asylum seekers in the conflict-riven country, the UK government’s official aid watchdog has warned.

In a report published on Friday, the UK’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact expresses concern that UK aid to Libya risks causing unintended harm to migrants and could prevent them from reaching a place of safety. It also criticises ministers for apparently decided on the funding plan without studying the human rights implications in a country struggling to contain its long-running civil war.

“In Libya, where the operating environment severely constrains choices, the UK has identified some programming options with the potential to improve some of the conditions for migrants in detention,” it finds. “However, we are concerned about the risk that UK aid is contributing to a system that prevents refugees from reaching a place of safe asylum.”

The UK is spending roughly £10m this year in Libya to stem the flow of migrants from north Africa to Europe, including cash for the Libyan coastguard and to improve the appalling conditions in the camps where many people are now ending up.

“While reducing the number of deaths at sea is vital, we are concerned that the programme delivers migrants back to a system that leads to indiscriminate and indefinite detention and denies refugees their right to asylum,” the report says.

The aid watchdog, set up and funded by the government to report on the efficiency of Britain’s aid budget, also expressed concern that responsible government departments were not able to provide evidence that any prior human rights risk assessments had been made.

“We have not seen evidence that the responsible departments and implementing partners have analysed the economic and political conditions surrounding Libya’s system of detention centres in sufficient detail,” it says. “This is important because there are credible reports that some Libyan state and local officials are involved in people smuggling and trafficking, and in extortion of migrants in detention.”

It concludes there is a risk that providing financial or material support – even neutral humanitarian support – to detention centres breaches the “do no harm” principle in aid, and so puts asylum seekers at risk.

The report discloses that government officials acknowledge the legitimacy of these concerns in private but believe there is no alternative given government policy and the deep security crisis in Libya. The country’s civil war has escalated in recent days as rival sides battle for control of its hugely lucrative oil terminals.

The watchdog also criticises the UK’s overall programme to stem the flow of refugees from Africa, saying it is in its infancy and that UK officials have yet to develop a strategy let alone practical plans on the ground. Apart from one £125m programme in Ethiopia which specifically targets those most at risk of leaving for Europe, it warns, the migration programme is “some distance from having any impact”.

At EU-level, politicians increasingly speak of a new Marshall Plan for Africa, but the British plan is still at the design stage, the report says.

A £1bn Conflict, Stability and Security Fund under the control of the national security council has set aside £28m to stem migration flows in Africa.

The watchdog says officials are under pressure to produce results, but no consensus yet exists on the prime drivers of the migration flow, let alone how to reduce the tens of thousands leaving for Europe.

Source=https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/mar/10/uk-funded-camps-in-libya-indefinitely-detaining-asylum-seekers?CMP=share_btn_link

Government watchdog says £10m has been allocated to Libya without studying the human rights implications

 
 
People in a detention center in Tripoli.
People in a detention center in Tripoli. Photograph: Ismail Zitouny/Reuters
Last modified on Tuesday, 14 March 2017 11:59