Italy and Libya reach agreement on border security and migration; PACE report condemns NATO response to stricken refugees in Mediterranean
(5 April 2012)
A memorandum of understanding was signed between Italy and Libya on 3 April 2012 regarding migration from Libya. The Libyan interior minister Fouzi Abdul Aal and the Italian interior minister Anna Maria Cancilieri met in Tripoli this week to sign the agreement. The MOU is concerned specifically with forming security cooperation between the two countries, where Italy will provide technical assistance to monitor Libya’s borders and to assist in returning irregular migrants to their countries of origin. It also provides for the facilitation of exchange of information regarding human trafficking operations. The priority appears to be in halting irregular migrants from leaving Libya, headed typically towards Italian territory, in particular Lampedusa. It has been reported the two countries will also work with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in conducting the returns. Currently there is little further information on the agreement. Meanwhile, it was reported that another ten people died in the Mediterranean on 3 April, after a vessel with refugees headed for Lampedusa encountered trouble 100 kilometres south of the island, having departed earlier from Libya, demonstrating ongoing concerns in the region.
On 29 March 2012 the Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe’s (PACE) Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons released a report titled ‘Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?’ The committee found that NATO failed to respond to distress calls of a refugee boat that was in a maritime surveillance zone under its control in the Mediterranean during March 2011, shortly after international air strikes began in Libya. The boat had left Tripoli with 72 migrants, headed for Italy, but washed up on Libyan shores 15 days later, with only nine survivors remaining. During this time survivors said that several vessels came within sight, while a military helicopter dropped some rations to the boat, promising to return but failed to do so. The committee also found Italian search and rescue authorities, Libyan authorities, and the flag states of naval vessels in the region culpable in their lack of response to the distress signals sent to all ships in the region. Spanish authorities under NATO command currently dispute the series of events.
Sources: ‘Libya and Italy hold talks on illegal migration, border security’, APA News, 4 April 2012; ‘Libya-Italy agree joint action against immigration’, Times of Malta, 4 April 2012; ‘Refugees die at sea’, The Sun, 4 April; 'Nato 'failed to aid' Libyan migrant boat - Council of Europe report 2012', BBC News, 29 March 2012; 'Migrants left to die after catalogue of failures, says report into boat tragedy', Jack Shenker, Guardian, 28 March 2012