The Italian interior ministry claims that the EU considers Libya "a trustworthy country." Both migrant rescue NGO "Mediterranea Saving Humans" and the European Commission dispute this.
Mediterranea said in a statement on its website that the Italian government's "talk of Libya [...] is indicative of the government's difficulty in continuing to justify its illegal and inhumane policies." The Italian rescue collective, which works in cooperation with the German organization Sea Watch and the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, is among the fiercest critics of the Salvini coalition's anti-migration policies.
The statement came after the Italian interior ministry claimed that the EU believes Libya has "safe ports." Interior Minister Matteo Salvini recently updated the country's Directive on Surveillance of Maritime Borders - arguing that "according to [the European Commission], Libya can and must rescue migrants at sea, and is therefore to be considered a trustworthy country."
'Inhumane situation for many migrants in Libya'
In a long press release on its website, Mediterranea said that the Italian government's claims were based on a very "vague statement" from the European Commission about Libya and its search and rescue areas. The NGO pointed to a statement of the Commission's migration spokesperson, Natasha Bertaud, that they believe is much more relevant. A few months ago, Bertaud "unequvicoally declared 'there will never be repatriations from the EU to Libya or European ships that send migrants back to Libya. This is against our values, international and European law. We are well aware of the inhumane situation for many migrants in Libya'."
The Mediterranea press release went on to say that "Libya is not a safe port, and the European Commission has officially confirmed that."
The organization alleged the only role of the Libyan coast guard was to capture those trying to flee detention centers and the "daily violations of human rights that are carried out there."
Commission says Libya 'not a safe port'
A spokesperson for the European Commission also rebuffed the Italian interior ministry's account, saying that, "regarding disembarkations [...] the Commission has always said that at the moment in Libya conditions are not secure." They added, "all ships flying an EU flag do not have permission to make landings in Libya."