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The Libyan League For Human Rights
Sunday, 10 October, 2004

No To Italy And EU Asylum And Refugees Camps

"Italy had been instrumental in getting the embargo removed...
Once again Italy has shown itself to be Libya's friend"! (Colonel Qaddhafi)

1. The Libyan League for Human rights deplores the deal between Italy and President Qaddhafi for the creation in Libya of holding (internment) camps for Italy's asylum seekers and refugees. The deal is tantamount of a subcontract of Italy's asylum administration to the Libyan regime, famous for its harsh treatment of refugees in general and of its own national political opposition, a good part of which, is scattered throughout Europe and America with a political refugee status. The Libyan Government policy of pressuring foreign governments to deny Libyans the enjoyment of the right to seek asylum is well known and documented. It led, in the 1980s, a murder (physical liquidation) campaign in Europe and the USA against potential Libyan asylum seekers in an apparent attempt to deter Libyan refugees from seeking asylum protection in one hand and potential host countries from providing them the protection on the other hand. Dozens of Libyans were thus murdered in Italy, Great Britain, Germany, France, Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon and elsewhere. "Stray Dogs" is the official name given by the government to Libyan asylum seekers.

2. Subsequently, the Libyan Government, in its pursuit of that very policy of pressuring foreign governments to deny asylum to Libyans, succeeded in extracting from the Government of Jordan the "hand over" of five Libyan asylum seekers. They were all reported to have been executed on their forcible arrival to Tripoli from Amman. Execution was also the fate the Libyan government reserved to another asylum seeker; Major Omar Almiheshi, a leading member of the Revolutionary Council that engineered the coup against the monarchy in Libya in 1969, upon his forcible return to Libya from Morocco in 1984. In the last three months, the Government of President Qaddhafi handed over to the Government of Eritrea, another notorious human rights violator, a score of Eritrean refugees seeking protection in Libya. They are reported to have been detained, since their forcible return, in secret military camps with very harsh conditions. It is feared, in particular, that they are routinely tortured and regularly subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment. The fear is so real that the UNHCR, the United Nations refugee protection arm, did not hesitate to defend openly the act of the desperate Eritrean refugees who forced a Libyan plane to land in Khartoum to foil their forcible return to Asmara. "The hijacking last month [Libyan plane] revealed the seriousness of the situation and the vulnerability of refugees and asylum seekers in Libya" was the UNHCR comment. Subsequently 60 of the 75 deportees were granted asylum in Sudan. The deportations constitute a severe violation of the OAU Refugees Convention Libya ratified in May 1969 and bluntly go against the norms of international protection and the principle of non-refoulement (Amnesty International commented).

3. The Libyan League for Human Rights is all the more concerned about the prospect of Libya playing host to such camps that the country does not have the necessary asylum laws, structures or profile to deal with these issues. It is not even a member of the 1951 Geneva Refugees Convention which sets out the legal definition of refugees, their rights and the legal obligations of states. The Government of President Qaddhafi has proved over the last thirty five years an unprecedented contempt to equity and fair and independent justice through the permanent violation of basic human rights of its citizens. We deeply believe that it is highly inappropriate to entrust a Government with such bad human rights records with the responsibility of ensuring minimum standards of treatment for persons who are in need of international protection. The camps or holding centers, apart from violating the Geneva Convention on Refugees, will in no way guarantee that refugees are properly protected and their case properly processed. In particular no refugee will have the opportunity to appeal against a Libyan or an Italian governmental decision made in those camps while we all know that one out of two positive decisions on granting of a political refugee status are made on appeal.

4. The Libyan League for Human rights would like to put on record its opposition to the establishment of asylum seeker and refugee camps. The relinquishing by the Italian and EU policy makers of their responsibility, to directly deal with refugees crisis within the framework of internationally recognized norms, is unacceptable and unworthy of any Government of Law. Democratic Governments either do their jobs or resign. They do not subcontract (bribe!) the implementation of their policies, in this case the migration policy, to foreign governments. Arming the Government of Libya with sophisticated military equipment and lifting the embargo on armaments, imposed following Lockerbie, UTA and Labelle violent crimes, to reward the Libyan Government for accepting to undertake the "dirty work" (Mr. Berlusconi's Government could not directly do without facing legal or political disavowal) against desperate refugees is immoral as it represents a clear encouragement to the Libyan Government to continue, as usual, its violations of basic Human rights, including violations of the Geneva Convention on refugees without risk of international disapproval or retort. There is no guarantee that the European armament will not be used against Libyans who do not agree with the way the government is conducting public affairs, including those who believe that the holding of camps in Libya will deprive asylum seekers and refugees from any possibility of fair chance at obtaining asylum. The European armaments may even be used against Libyans who simply believe that the EU and the Government of Libya must realize that asylum and immigration policies should be an integral part of development cooperation policies that should take into consideration not only armament, trade and investment, but most importantly respect of human rights, all rights, including "the right (everyone has) to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution". (article 14, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

10 October 2004

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