EU-Africa Summit (November 28/29): Europe’s refugee policy must not tolerate slavery

A call for effective measures against impunity in Libya (Press Release)

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, was appalled by the “terrible crime”. Photo: Mark Garten via UN Photo

The Society for Threatened Peoples demands the European Union (EU) to use the forthcoming EU-Africa summit to initiate specific programs to fight slavery and crimes against humanity in Libya. “Refugees and migrants from all over Africa are suffering from the fact that Libya has become a law-free area in which slavery is tolerated and where even the most serious crimes go unpunished. The EU must be more effective in punishing slavers, warlords, and war criminals – or it will encourage slavery,” said Ulrich Delius, the STP’s director, in Göttingen on Friday. Recently, reports about slavery in Libya had caused a wave of protest throughout the world. The great indignation – especially in Africa – is overshadowing the two-day EU-Africa summit, which will be taking place in the Ivory Coast as of Tuesday.

The STP sharply criticized the fact that the EU remained silent about the crimes against humanity against refugees and migrants in Libya for so long. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) had already warned about the enslavement of refugees and migrants in various cities in the west of the country in April 2017. However, it was not until the television channel CNN broadcasted footage of slave markets in November 2017 that politicians and governments around the world started to speak up. Traffickers are selling refugees and migrants for $ 400 to $ 1,000. On Wednesday, the French President Emmanuel Macron stated this to be a “crime against humanity” and requested a special session of the UN Security Council. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, was appalled by the “terrible crime”.

Many of the refugees are enslaved by warlords who are closely associated with the Libyan authorities and the EU’s partners. There is no independent and powerful judiciary in the country. Since the fall of dictator Gaddafi in 2011, no one can be legally held accountable for murder, torture, and abuse.

“The EU, as a close cooperation partner of Libya, must get to work to end the culture of impunity,” said Delius. For example, the EU could try to demand the International Criminal Court (ICC) to step up its investigations – or focus on the establishment of an independent judiciary in Libya. Another possibility would be to establish mixed courts, consisting of Libyan as well as international judges, which would be able to hold slave traders, warlords, and war criminals accountable.