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World News \ Europe

Germany calls situation of migrants in Libya "catastrophic"

A woman from Mali after being rescued from the Mediterranean sea, north of Tajura, Libya. - AP

A woman from Mali after being rescued from the Mediterranean sea, north of Tajura, Libya. - AP

31/01/2017 18:54

(Vatican Radio) Germany's government says the human rights situation in Libya is "catastrophic" with migrants trying to reach Europe bearing the brunt of abuse in the North African nation. The concern over Libya comes ahead of an upcoming summit of European Union leaders.  

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:

Internal German Foreign Ministry memos, leaked to German and international media, say detention camps for refugees in Libya are terrible. One memo describes how migrants fleeing war and poverty face torture and even execution at the camps.  

The ministry says "Europe mustn't look away but try to make the living conditions bearable now" and adds that Europe's "credibility is on the line here."

Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer declined to confirm or deny the authenticity of the memos publicly. But he did confirm that "the human rights situation in Libya is catastrophic" and that "It hits the weakest of the weak most including hundreds of thousands of people who are making their way from West Africa to what he said they regard as the promised land, Europe."

Libya has become a key departure point for migrants from Africa trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Thousands of people died last year when their rickety boats sank en route.

EU GATHERING

The German government remarks about their situation come while European Union leaders prepare to discuss the situation in Libya at a summit on Friday in Malta. Yet that isn't easy as the EU faces its worst crisis in decades. 

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said this month that "We in Europe must speak more with each other in the existential crisis that Europe is finding itself in - at least the deepest crisis that Europe has been in since the establishing of the EU and in the 60 years of its existence."

He made clear that this is especially important when looking to Libya and other troubled nations from where many refugees arrive as well as the uncertainty surrounding American foreign policy. And he warned that "the blessing of peace is not guaranteed in Europe."    

With Europe facing its worst refugee crisis since World War Two, several EU members such as Hungary built razor wire fences to halt the influx of asylum seekers. 

OUTSIDE HELP? 

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who admires U.S. President Donald Trump, has been among the most vocal European leaders urging the EU to provide aid to refugees outside its borders.         

However German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday that a deal in which migrants rescued by European navies patrolling the Mediterranean might be sent back to for instance Libya would only be possible once the country becomes politically stable.

The EU has been trying to stem the flow of migrants to Europe by encouraging the Libyan government to crack down on smugglers who use the chaos and lawlessness since the ouster of Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi six years ago. 

But the United Nations-backed government has little control over armed groups outside the capital, Tripoli.

 

 

31/01/2017 18:54