Migrants after the bombing of the Tajoura detention centre (Tripoli), 8 July 2019 | Photo: ANSA/ZUHAIR ABUSREWIL
Migrants after the bombing of the Tajoura detention centre (Tripoli), 8 July 2019 | Photo: ANSA/ZUHAIR ABUSREWIL

On Sunday, Italy sent Libyan authorities proposed changes to the 2017 Italy-Libya Memorandum of Understanding on migrants. The Italian foreign ministry said the draft introduces "significant innovations" to ensure more protections to migrants, asylum seekers, and in particular people who are vulnerable to becoming victims of illegal traffickers across Libya.

Italy has sent its proposed changes to the Italy-Libya Memorandum of Understanding on migrants to Libyan authorities. The changes are meant to enact "more protections for migrants and asylum seekers and in particular for vulnerable people" who in Libya often find themselves in the hands of unscrupulous traffickers or in detention centers where violence, rapes, and torture are commonplace. 


The agreement was signed by Italy in 2017 by the Gentiloni government and was automatically renewed just one week ago by the second Conte government

'Significant innovations to protect migrants' 

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio announced during a visit to Rome by Fathi Bashaga, interior minister of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), that Italy would propose changes to the agreement. Di Maio sent authorities in Tripoli the proposals, which focus on respect for human rights. 

In a statement, the foreign ministry said the text "introduces significant innovations to ensure more extensive protections to migrants and asylum seekers" and "to promote management of migration with full respect of the principles of the Geneva Convention and other international laws on human rights."

"Italy's intention is that this objective must also be reached through consolidating the actions of United Nations organisations, in particular UNHCR and IOM, in Libya," the statement said. 

The ongoing conflict in Libya, with a shaky truce and a lasting ceasefire still to come, has made work difficult for the UN agencies with which Italy wants to collaborate. On January 30, UNHCR had to suspend its operations in Libya for security reasons and close its Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) in Tripoli, which had just opened one year ago. 

Criticism of Italy continues 

The Italian proposal hasn't, however, stopped criticism of the Memorandum, in which Italy agreed to equip and train the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept boats of migrants to bring them back to Libyan detention centres, or in any case, back to Libya, a country at war. 

"Instead of ripping up that accord in shame, now they are thinking of adding two lines on the protection of human rights to clear their conscience," said Alessandra Sciurba, president of the association Mediterranea Saving Humans. The NGO's ship, Mare Jonio, was under administrative seizure for five months in the Italian port of Licata. The organisation has just launched a fundraising campaign to put the ship back in search-and-rescue operations at sea.
 

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