Children on the move and other migrants are being placed in extreme danger by reckless EU plans to outsource human rights responsibilities to Libya, a group of NGOs – including Terre des Hommes – said in a letter to European leaders today.

The decision to transfer responsibility for managing migratory movements along the central Mediterranean route to Libya will neither reduce human rights abuses, nor end smuggling. Instead, it will significantly increase harm and suffering.

These EU plans will exacerbate the arrests and detention of migrants in Libya and increase their exposure to severe human rights abuses.

The UN-backed government in Tripoli has only a limited and precarious hold on power, competing with a variety of other actors. The EU itself describes Libya as ‘unsafe’ and systematic violence towards refugees and migrants has been widely documented.

Multiple reports by human rights groups have described the grave, harrowing conditions in Libya – including rape, torture, executions, and other forms of suffering. Many organisations have documented prolonged arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment in the very centres where refugees and migrants are detained after being intercepted at sea by Libyan entities performing coastguard activities.

Sustainable investment in countries of origin, along with opening and strengthening safe and regular channels to Europe is the most efficient way to address people smuggling, rather than the militarisation of Europe’s borders. Development assistance should be for the benefit of vulnerable populations – not primarily aimed to stop migration towards Europe.

Rather than the current clamour to ‘secure Europe’s borders’, opening safe and regular channels to Europe would vastly reduce the number of deaths in the Mediterranean and could lead to the EU saving significant amounts of money and other resources on search and rescue operations.

The EU must also introduce specific measures to identify and protect vulnerable groups – such as children, migrants and refugees with disabilities, victims of torture or trafficking and those at risk of discrimination.

The letter was signed by over 70 organisations. You can read it in full here.