Forty organizations and Italy's three leading trade unions have appealed to the government to revoke the 2017 Memorandum with Libya. Otherwise, the deal will be automatically renewed on November 2 for three years.
Forty organizations including Oxfam and Amnesty International as well as the unions CGIL, CISL and UIL on Monday (October 24) launched an appeal, asking the new government headed by Giorgia Meloni to revoke the 2017 Memorandum between Italy and Libya on cooperation to fight illegal immigration and human trafficking.
"If by November 2 the Italian government does not issue a suspension," NGOs said. "The Memorandum will be automatically renewed for another three years. It is an agreement that has had dramatic consequences for the past five years on the lives of thousands of migrant and refugee women, men and children, including abuse, exploitation, arbitrary detention and torture."
Nearly 100,000 migrants, refugees returned to Libya
The organizations said that "between 2017 and October 2022, nearly 100,000 people have been intercepted at sea by Libyan coast guards and forcibly taken back to Libya, a country which cannot be considered safe."
They called on the Italian government to "recognize its responsibility and not renew agreements with Libya."
Moreover, the appeal asked to "shed light on the management of European funds financing Libyan coast guards."
The organizations that signed the appeal also urged people to attend a demonstration against the Memorandum scheduled on Wednesday (October 26) in Rome's Piazza dell'Esquilino.
The NGOs promoting the event, many of which aim to defend migrant rights, include Agency Habeshia, Alarm Phone, Amnesty International Italia, the Astalli Center, Fondazione Migrantes, Intersos, Medici del Mondo Italia, Mediterranea, Doctors Without Borders, Open Arms, Oxfam Italia, Refugees Welcome Italia, ResQ - People Saving People, Save the Children, and Sea-Watch.
Migrants face abuse, torture, exploitation in Libya
"The agreement, which was created with the objective of sending economic aid and support to Libyan coast guards to try to reduce migrant trafficking across the Mediterranean, fight illegal immigration and strengthen security at the border, did not reach any of the desired objectives", the unions said.
"Thousands of women, men and children seeking protection have been intercepted at sea and taken back to Libya to face detention and torture", they stressed. "In fact, violence, abuse and illegitimate detention are unfortunately common in Libya where the political situation is particularly unstable."
They added that "according to multiple reports, the most vulnerable are not guaranteed protection, the most elementary human rights are denied in Libyan detention centers [and there is] no transparency on the work carried out by Libyan coast guards, often colluding with traffickers."
Seeing migration as a positive development
The statement also said that migration should be considered a resource, "even more so in [Italy where] a significant demographic crisis which could determine its decline, if not corrected."
"As unions, we wish to open a serious debate, at a European level and in Italy, to overcome the idea of immigration as an emergency and to demand actions that favor a shared and responsible management of migration", the unions CGIL, CISL and UIL concluded.