European Values (II)

TRIPOLI/BERLIN/ROME (Own report) - A steadily increasing number of casualties in the North African desert and grave violations of international law are flanking the German government's efforts to cordon off the EU from African refugees. Berlin's attempts to seal the Libya-Niger border is forcing refugees to take routes that are more dangerous, causing increasing numbers of deaths in the Sahara. Since Italy and Libya's puppet government in Tripoli have begun to hamper maritime rescue operations off the Libyan coast, a rise in the number of casualties is also feared in the Mediterranean. At the same time, the German government is supporting the internment of refugees in Libyan detention camps, notorious for their brutal and even murderous treatment. "Humanitarian standards" need to be imposed on those camps, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says, and calls on the services of the United Nations' Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UNHCR. These activities combine to create a multiple anti-refugee system, including two rings of barriers along with a network of camps.

The First Ring of Barriers

The German defense ministry, in particular, is currently working to reinforce the first ring of barriers, which - according to German government plans - should be installed at Libya's southern border. During her visit to the Niger capital Niamey, in late July, Minister Ursula von der Leyen handed over five million euros worth of equipment to Niger's military and police. They can now dispose of 100 flatbed trucks, 115 motorcycles and 55 satellite telephones from Germany to search for refugees.[1] In addition, Berlin dispatched a lieutenant colonel, who, as liaison officer to Niamey, will also determine further assistance needed by Niger to ward off refugees. Since some time, Italy has also been engaged in efforts to seal the border between Niger and Libya. The former colonial power is seeking to induce southern Libyan clans to participate in the refugee hunt. ( reported.[2]) Already in spring, German Interior Minster Thomas de Maizière called for setting up an "EU border protection" mission along its Libya-Niger border.[3]

Refugees Dying in the Desert

Measures to ward off refugees are already having an impact. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a growing number of refugees are avoiding the traditional - in the meantime heavily controlled - routes leading through towns, such as Agadez. To avoid being discovered and arrested, they are now taking more treacherous routes through the Sahara, far away from water sources and basic services. The number of those dying in the desert is growing accordingly. Already during the first seven months of this year, the IOM has documented 265 dead refugees in North Africa. However, many of the desert casualties are only discovered with considerable delay, and the estimated number is expected to be significantly higher. IOM specialists do not rule out that the number of refugees, who have died crossing the desert, may be "in the thousands." Other experts assume that more may die in the Sahara than in the Mediterranean.[4] According to the IOM, this year (as of August 14), 2,408 refugees have died in the Mediterranean.

The Second Ring of Barriers

Aid organizations are warning that, due to the brutal methods used by Italy and the Libyan puppet government in Tripoli against the rescuers at sea - such as the organization Médecins sans Frontières - the number of refugees dying in the Mediterranean could significantly increase in the near future. These methods are explicitly endorsed by Berlin. According to the ANSA news agency, these organizations had been able to rescue 46,796 refugees in 2016 and 12,646 in the first four months of 2017.[5] Because they bring the refugees for safety to Italy, rather than to Libya - as the Libyan coast guard does - their operations are running counter to the efforts pursued by Berlin and the EU, to transform the Mediterranean into a second ring of barriers. The Italian government has now restricted this activity with a "code of conduct" that is, partially, in clear violation of international law, as confirmed by the Reference and Research Services of the German Bundestag. Several rescue organizations, therefore, feel compelled to cease their operations.

Shooting at Rescuers at Sea

In addition, the Libyan puppet government is seriously threatening rescuers at sea. This puppet regime was put in office with German support,[6] but has hardly any authority inside the country. According to an admiral of the Libyan Navy, this government has now declared the Libyan coast off limits to private rescue ships.[7] This not only applies to the usual twelve-mile zone, but, as the admiral explains, to a much larger maritime stretch. According to reports, this refers to an obscure 97 mile zone, which Italy unilaterally accorded to Libya in a "Treaty of Friendship," on August 30, 2008. Tripoli is in fact claiming an area, which, according to international maritime law, is ascribed exclusively as the country's economic zone, and must be held open for international maritime navigation. To bar this ominous zone, particularly for rescue ships, is in violation of international law, as experts confirm.[8] Despite this fact, the Libyan coast guard - trained and equipped by the EU - is threatening the rescuers at sea, if they ignore this illegal maritime blockade. The founder of one of the rescue organizations reported that, in the past, they had already experienced that "they do not hesitate, but shoot immediately."[9] Only last week, a Libyan coast guard fired warning shots at rescuers at sea, who had just taken 150 refugees onboard. The Libyan coast guard is notorious for its brutal attacks. A recently published video shows how members of the Libyan coast guard were flogging defenseless refugees with thick ropes. Other accusations against the coast guard include very serious crimes, even murder. ( reported.[10])

"Humanitarian Standards"

In addition to expanding the first barrier ring at the Niger-Libyan border and the second ring at the Mediterranean, the German government is supporting the detention of refugees in Libyan camps, using the services of the IOM and the UNHCR. Human rights organizations have sharply criticized the Libyan detention camps for years, where mistreatment, torture, slavery and murder are commonplace. Diplomatic circles refer to "concentration camp-like conditions." ( reported.[11]) "We have to assure that these centers are operating in accordance with humanitarian standards," Chancellor Angela Merkel declared last week following a meeting with IOM Director General William Lacy Swing and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.[12] IOM and UNHCR are seeking to improve the living conditions in Libya's detention centers. During his visit to Tripoli early this month, IOM Director General Swing advocated open centers.[13] The IOM has also established a camp in Niamey from which refugees are being resettled to their countries of origin. Similar projects are planned for Libya as well, Swing announced last week in Berlin. Merkel agreed to provide up to €50 million to support these IOM and UNHCR activities in Libya.

"Europe" Stands Ready

Recent statements by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel indicate that Berlin also has an option for a more far-reaching intervention. If one demands, "that refugees saved in the Mediterranean be returned to Libya and to receive decent help, the question arises who will protect these people there?" Gabriel asked at the beginning of this week. "Who will fight against the brutal and criminal militia, mistreating the people daily in the refugee camps?" The answer is, "Europe must be ready to ask itself these questions."[14] Fighting the militias would mean the next war.

[1] Deutschland unterstützt Niger mit Ausrüstung. 31.07.2017.
[2] See Europas Wüstengrenze (II).
[3] See Europe's Desert Border.
[4] Kieran Guilbert: Niger smugglers take migrants on deadlier Saharan routes: U.N. 08.08.2017.
[5] More NGOs halt rescues off Libya after threats. 14.08.2017.
[6] See Von Lagern umgeben.
[7] Libyen will Küste für private Rettungsschiffe sperren. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12.08.2017.
[8] Peter Maxwill: Sperrzone im Mittelmeer. 14.08.2017.
[9] Seenotretter setzen Missionen im Mittelmeer aus. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 14.08.2017.
[10] See Against Terrorism and Migration (II) and On the Brink of the Third Failure.
[11] See Massenabschiebung als Modell, Rückschub in die Hölle and Europas Wüstengrenze (II).
[12] Pressekonferenz von Bundeskanzlerin Merkel mit dem Hohen Flüchtlingskommissar der Vereinten Nationen, Grandi, und dem Generaldirektor der Internationalen Organisation für Migration, Swing, im Bundeskanzleramt. Berlin, 11.07.2017.
[13] Libya Remains Top Priority for UN Migration Agency: DG Swing in Tripoli. 04.08.2017.
[14] "Jetzt ist die Stunde der Diplomatie, nicht des Kriegsgeschreis". 15.08.2017.