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Joint Statement: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and IOM Director General António Vitorino welcome consensus on need for action on Libya, Mediterranean

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Joint Statement: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and IOM Director General António Vitorino welcome consensus on need for action on Libya, Mediterranean

22 July 2019 Also available in:
Italy. Mare Nostrum June rescues
A boat packed with people is spotted in the Mediterranean Sea from an Italian rescue helicopter during the Mare Nostrum operation, June 2014

Today’s discussions in Paris with European States on addressing the situation on the Mediterranean Sea, and preventing loss of life in Libya, are welcome and much-needed. The violence in Tripoli in recent weeks has made the situation more desperate than ever, and the need for action critical.

We welcome the consensus at today’s meeting on a need to end the arbitrary detention of refugees and migrants in Libya. There needs to be a process of orderly release of people in detention centres either to urban areas, or to open centres that allow reasonable freedom of movement, shelter, assistance and protection from harm, plus independent monitoring and regular unhindered access for humanitarian agencies. In light of the risks of abuse, maltreatment or death, no one should be returned to detention centres in Libya after being intercepted or rescued at sea.

The renewed commitment today from States to preventing loss of life on the Mediterranean Sea is also encouraging. The status quo, where search and rescue operations are often left to NGO or commercial vessels, cannot continue. An EU State search and rescue operation, similar to programmes we have seen in recent years, is needed.

The crucial role played by NGOs must be acknowledged. They should not be criminalised nor stigmatised for saving lives at sea. Commercial vessels, who are increasingly being relied upon to conduct rescue operations, must not be requested to transfer rescued people to the Libyan Coast Guard, nor directed to disembark them in Libya, which is not a port of safety.

Discussions on establishing a temporary, predictable arrangement for disembarking people after they have been rescued at sea, and sharing responsibility amongst States for hosting them afterwards, were promising. We encourage these talks to progress further. A joined-up approach to this situation is in everyone’s interests.

In the meantime, evacuations and resettlement out of Libya continue to be a vital lifeline for people facing an immediate threat to their lives. We continue to urge States to work with us to get the most vulnerable refugees in Libya out of danger, and we welcome the expressions of support in this regard that have been heard today.

Lastly, greater efforts are needed to address why people leave their homes in the first place. While multiple conflicts in North and Sub-Saharan Africa continue unresolved, and development challenges persist, some will continue to seek alternatives for themselves and their families.

Brokering a lasting peace in Libya must be the overriding priority. The international community should use any leverage it has to bring the warring parties together in dialogue, and establish a political solution that restores stability and security.

For more information on this topic, please contact:



  • In Libya: Safa Msehli, +21622241842, [email protected]
  • In Geneva: Leonard Doyle at +41792857123 or Joel Millman at +41791038720