In the context of an increasingly polarised debate on the rise of Channel crossings, this event focussed on the rise of migrant journeys to Libya as individuals flee war, repression and other violence from the Horn of Africa, including from countries like Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan. The event discussed the impossibility of protecting migrants inside of Libya and outlined options for safe and legal pathways out of Libya, focussing on the ways in which the UK can protect vulnerable people before they reach France and undertake Channel crossings.
Chair: APPG Migration Vice-Chair and APPG Eritrea Vice- Chair, Tim Farron MP
Jérôme Tubiana, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders introduced the Out of Libya report produced by MSF. He described the challenging work of MSF in Libya in providing healthcare and mental health support to migrants and asylum-seekers including in detention centres since 2016-7. Jérôme Tubiana listed the main safe and legal avenues currently existing for migrants to get out of Libya, namely ‘voluntary returns’ to countries of origin with the International Organization for Migration and limited resettlement opportunities to third countries with UNHCR. He also advocated for the introduction of innovative and faster safe routes, including opening humanitarian corridors to specific European countries to evacuate vulnerable migrants who fall outside UNHCR resettlement criteria. This could be achieved through bilateral agreements with specific countries and could involve the support of MSF and other not-for-profit organizations, as it is already happening with Italy. Overall, he advocated for urgent humanitarian evacuations from Libya, as well as an expansion of resettlement places with UNHCR.
A powerful short film produced by MSF, featuring the experience of a migrant survivor who had been detained in Libya, was also shown. A version of the film can be watched below and here.
The survivor featured in the film spoke about the harsh conditions faced in his country of origin, as well as the terrible situation faced in Libya, the detention he experienced in Malta and his further onward journey to safety.
Vicky Tennant, UNHCR Representative to the UK started by placing the issue of displacement in a global context and subsequently outlined the work of UNHCR in Libya. She focussed on the limitations that UNHCR faced in delivering its mandate for refugee protection in Libya. These include the fact that Libya is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention, and therefore UNHCR’s presence and involvement in the country has to be negotiated with the government, the limitation to only nine nationalities to be considered for resettlement to third countries (which was negotiated with the Libyan authorities), the lack of access to support asylum seekers in Libyan detention centres and the organization’s inability to provide even physical protection for refugees during the registration process given the unstable circumstances. The UNHCR representative also called for an expansion of resettlement places and of family reunification criteria, in addition to pointing out the need for other, complementary legal pathways.
The event was well attended by a number of parliamentary researchers, government officials and invited governmental and civil society representatives, as well as a number of interested MPs and Peers.