Detained migrants sitting in the Abu Salim detention center in Gasr Garabulli, 60 kilometers east of Tripoli, Libya | Photo: EPA/STR
Detained migrants sitting in the Abu Salim detention center in Gasr Garabulli, 60 kilometers east of Tripoli, Libya | Photo: EPA/STR

Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese says that an agreement between Italy and Libya regarding migration must be stay in place, but be amended. She wants more centers in Libya that are directly managed by the UN.

In a speech in the Lower House of the Italian parliament, Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said the Memorandum of Understanding between Italy and Libya (which was signed on February 2, 2017) has led to a decrease in migrant flows and deaths at sea. She added that now, however, the agreement should be changed to improve conditions in migrant centers. 

The aim, Lamorgese said, is to gradually close the currently operating centers to make way for structures managed directly by the UN. 

Lamorgese said that the Italian proposal to revise the accord "was immediately and favourably accepted" by the Libyan government. 

Agreement "played an important role" 

Lamorgese said that "at the time the Memorandum was signed, the size of migrant flows was absolutely worrisome." 

The agreement should continue for another three years, she argued. Firstly, because "although the situation is quite different, a drop in attention to the dynamics of migrant flows would be unjustifiable, as they continue to concern our country." Secondly, because "[the agreement] has played an important role in avoiding the isolation of the Libyan authorities and involving them in common strategies to fight human trafficking." 

The focus now is on improving quality of detention structures, as illegal immigration in Libya is considered a crime punishable with prison, Lamorgese said. This improvement must come despite "the difficult general conditions of insecurity in the country, which risk facilitating the work of criminal groups engaged in human trafficking, including with the risk of the infiltration of jihadists among migrants who reach our shores," Lamorgese argued.

The conflict currently underway in Libya has also put migrant centers on the front lines. Lamorgese said the objective for Italy "must be that of improving conditions [at the centers]." 

Strengthening humanitarian corridors 

Lamorgese said other items that need to be included in the revised Memorandum are the strengthening of humanitarian corridors, involving other European countries and EU financing; the strengthening of surveillance capacities at the southern borders of Libya; and a support plan for Libyan municipalities, with the distribution of medical equipment, medical supplies, and supplies for schools and pharmacies. 

Fayez al Serraj's Government of National Accord reportedly responded immediately to the Italian proposal, signalling its willingness to revise the agreement. But the government of eastern Libya led by General Khalifa Haftar spoke out against the agreement. 

Italy and Europe "have no advantage" in supporting the Serraj government, because the capital Tripoli "is in the hands of the militias and as long as that is the case, boats will arrive on your shores", said Abdulahdi Ibrahim Lahweej, foreign minister in the Haftar government, which is not internationally recognized. 

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