IOM/UNHCR Joint Statement on European Council Meeting in Malta

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Migrants arrive in Europe after surviving a harrowing sea journey. © IOM

Switzerland - Ahead of the informal meeting of the European Council in Valletta today (03/02), IOM joins UNHCR in calling on European leaders to take decisive action to address the tragic loss of life on the Central Mediterranean route and the deplorable conditions for migrants and refugees in Libya.

To better protect refugees and migrants, we need a strong European Union that is engaged beyond its borders to protect, assist and help find solutions for people in need. This includes building capacity to save lives at sea or on land, strengthening the rule of law and fighting against criminal networks.

We call for concerted efforts to ensure that sustainable migration and asylum systems are put in place in Libya, when the security and political situation permits, and in neighboring countries.

We urge a move away from migration management based on the automatic detention of refugees and migrants in inhumane conditions in Libya towards the creation of proper reception services. Open reception centres should offer safe and dignified conditions, including for children and victims of trafficking, and respect key protection safeguards.

We hope that today’s Summit will also help move towards the adoption of a common approach to migration by the European Union.

Concrete measures in support of the Government of Libya are needed to build capacity to register new arrivals, support the voluntary return of migrants, process asylum claims and offer solutions to refugees.

This should include a significant expansion of opportunities for safe pathways such as resettlement and humanitarian admission, among others, to avoid dangerous journeys.

In Libya, together with partners, we have made tremendous efforts to deliver basic protection to refugees, migrants and affected local populations, who in some places are also in dire need of assistance.

Security constraints continue to hinder our ability to deliver life-saving assistance, provide basic services to the most vulnerable and find solutions through resettlement, assisted voluntary return or self-reliance. Unhindered humanitarian access remains a priority.

We believe that, given the current context, it is not appropriate to consider Libya a safe third country, nor to establish extra-territorial processing of asylum seekers in North Africa.

We hope that humane solutions can be found to end the suffering of thousands of migrants and refugees in Libya and across the region, and we stand ready to assist and enhance our engagement, conditions permitting.

For further information please contact Joel Millman at IOM Geneva, Tel: +41 79 103 8720, Email:

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