(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
Close to 1 million Euros were donated by the Dutch government to fund the Supporting Humanitarian Repatriation and Reintegration of Vulnerable Migrants out of Libya, a 12-month project run by the UN’s International Organization of Migration (IOM).
The purpose behind the IOM’s project is to return around 400 refugees to their countries of origin. About 180 of the 400 will be provided support to assist with their reintegration.
Refugees who are rescued from the Mediterranean Sea or detained in Libya will be the focus of the project, in addition to victims of trafficking, said Eric Strating, the Dutch Ambassador to Libya.
Up until Monday, 2,463 refugees were returned to their countries of origin this year with the support of the IOM, which is more than double the 1,113 who were returned last year.
Human smugglers operating in Libya have been taking advantage of Libya’s political instability and the lack of security in the country, and the number of refugees drowning to their death continues to increase at an alarming rate.
The refugee crisis in the Mediterranean region significantly worsened after the Libyan uprising that brought down the Gaddafi regime. Around 4,220 refugees died on their way to Europe so far this year, the highest number on record, said the IOM.
Last month, the IOM reported the results from a recent survey indicating that refugees who cross the sea from North Africa to Europe prefer to stay in Libya as they are usually terrified to make the trip but are forced into it by their smugglers.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) revealed plans in July to send warships and drones to expand on the European Union’s (EU) operation to regulate the mass migration of refugees from Africa to Europe.
Critics spoke against NATO’s plans calling them a “militarisation of a humanitarian crisis.” According to NATO, refugees fleeing Libya and other war-torn countries for safety, security, and a dignified life pose a threat to Europe. Stoltenberg further claimed that the seriousness of the “threat” posed by refugees demands a “joint effort.”
Refugees make the risky trip from their countries of origin to Europe to escape war, corruption and violence. On their journey, refugees eventually find themselves face-to-face with a human trafficker who will most likely take advantage of their desperate and vulnerable state. Refugees are then placed on small, fragile and overcrowded boats that almost always capsize before reaching Europe.
Though some refugees might decide to return home, the numbers of refugees crossing from Libya to Europe hit an all time new record last month.
In 2014, Italy saw about 170,000 refugees arriving which was the record up until recently when italy confirmed that so far this year 171,000 refugees have arrived to Italy.
Prominent humanitarian organizations spoke against the way the EU and NATO are dealing with refugees fleeing to Italy from Libya in search of a better life.
Doctors Without Borders is one of the organizations boycotting EU funds and initiatives to highlight their disapproval of the EU-NATO efforts to stop the flow of refugees.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) also spoke out against NATO’s announcement. Judith Sunderland, the associate director of HRW, said, “NATO’s involvement in migration control signals a dangerous shift toward militarisation of a humanitarian crisis.”
Sunderland called on the EU to “expand safe and legal routes to Europe.”
She also added that “NATO help for EU operations should avoid trapping people in lawless and violent Libya, either through forced returns or asking Libyan forces to send people back”.
In an address at St. Peter’s Square in Rome last month, Pope Francis urged officials to be concerned for and take care of the refugees fleeing war, violence, and corruption in their countries in search of a better life.
“Today, the context of economic crises unfortunately fosters the emergence of attitudes that are closed and unwelcoming,” said the Pope.
“In some parts of the world, walls and barricades are being erected. Closure (of borders) is not a solution,” emphasized the Pope. “It ends up encouraging trafficking. The only path towards a solution is that of solidarity.”