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EU to deliver more vessels to Libyan partners before summer

February 2, 2022 GMT

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union hopes to deliver more vessels to the Libyan coast guard before the summer when irregular sea crossings are expected to increase, an EU official whose work focuses on relations with Libya and migration said on Wednesday.

Henrike Trautmann, an official at the European Commission’s directorate for neighborhood and enlargement policies said Europe would be delivering three new search-and-rescue vessels and two refurbished patrol boats to Libya starting in the first half of 2022. Libyan coast guard officials will visit Italy at the end of the month to test out the new boats ahead of their delivery, she said.

Trautmann told European Parliament lawmakers that Libya’s capacity to stop migrants and refugees from reaching Europe or from drowning at sea “remains stretched” even if it has improved over the past year thanks to EU support.

In 2021, more than 68,000 people successfully crossed the Central Mediterranean Sea disembarking mainly in Italy and to a lesser extent in Malta compared to some 36,000 in 2020. Roughly half of those had departed from Libya on overcrowded and often unseaworthy boats. On the other hand, the Libyan coast guard “rescued” more than 31,000 migrants and refugees Trautmann said, without mentioning the abusive detention centers to which they are taken after being disembarked.

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“This is why the EU thinks it is essential to continue supporting Libya by delivering equipment and increasing the capacity of the coast guard and the area of border management.”

Trautmann downplayed human rights concerns and documented abuse of people who were returned to Libya.

The EU official’s comments come a week after the Associated Press revealed that the European Union was adamant in continuing training and supporting the Libyan coast guard despite acknowledging human rights violations and the “excessive use of force” in a confidential military report.

From 2014 to 2020 Europe has spent more than 500 million euros ($565 million) on programs in Libya, mainly related to migration and border management, Trautmann said.

“Libya is not a poor country, so what is missing currently is capacities and structures but not necessarily money,” she said. The EU official added that the EU’s new programs in Libya will focus on developing and strengthening democracy and the rule of law in the politically divided country with 20 million euros a year that could be increased to 32-37 million euros.

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Libya failed to hold much-anticipated presidential elections originally scheduled for Dec. 24. The postponement was a major blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in the oil-rich Mediterranean nation.

Trautmann also highlighted the need to push for a transition to clean energy in Libya and the implementation of “environmental measures” to address the impacts of climate change on migration.

“If we are serious about implementing the European Green Deal we also need to address exclusive reliance on fossil resources on third countries, particularly our neighbors.”

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