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European Commission


Brussels, 20 January 2014

Supporting human rights-based migration management and asylum system in Libya

The European Union (EU) has announced a €10 million programme which will contribute to the establishment of a “rights-based migration management and asylum system in Libya”. It is financed through the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI).

The new programme has a particular focus on improving living conditions for migrants in retention facilities by reviewing administrative procedures, improving services provided to migrants and facilitating their access to the local labour market. It will also address the need for strengthening the ability of public institutions to effectively plan and deliver on migration management issues in line with international standards and best practices, to guarantee that migrants are treated with full respect of human rights and human dignity and guaranteed international protection when need be.

The new initiative complies with the revised 2011-2013 National Indicative Programme which was signed on 30 August 2012 between the new Libyan authorities and the EU. The programme is also in line with EU's aim to support the transition to a democratic, stable and prosperous Libya.


Libya is both a destination country for economic migrants and a transit country for irregular migrants and people in need of international protection, heading towards the EU.

Migration to/through Libya occurs in three major forms:

  • Regular migration — migration of individuals who change their country of residence voluntarily in accordance with existing immigration regulations (migrant workers);

  • Forced migration (refugees and asylum seekers)— people fleeing, either as individuals in fear of persecution or in masses, in fear of collective violation of human rights or humanitarian law; or escaping as a consequence of other circumstances, such as conflict or natural or man-made disasters in their country of origin;

  • Irregular migration, characterised by illegal border crossing or unauthorised stay in a foreign state, mainly for economic reasons.

This migration flow has very important implications on Libya’s border management and the fight against criminal networks involved in the trafficking and smuggling of migrants. Due to the lack of a comprehensive and coherent migration management system, unequal treatment of migrants is common, with harsher conditions imposed upon those apprehended, for instance.

The legal and regulatory framework on migration appears poor, fragmented and not harmonised. Libya has not signed and/or domesticated relevant international conventions, and this is reflected in the weak recognition of international standards on the rule of law and human rights.

In the current legal framework no distinction is made between irregular migrants on the one hand, and refugees and asylum seekers on the other hand. All categories are considered to be ‘illegal migrants’ and subject to fines, retention and expulsion.

Even when the legal framework actually protects the rights of migrants, poor knowledge of legal provisions on the part of law enforcement officials and weaknesses in the judiciary system and among legal professionals can hamper the protection of migrants.

Despite media reports and misconceptions on the part of many Libyans, most migrants entering Libya wish to remain and work there, hoping to improve their living conditions. Furthermore, the Libyan economy actually relies heavily on foreign workers. The country is not able to cover its labour market needs solely by employing local manpower. To reduce irregular migration, a clear official procedure for processing job-seeking migrants is seen as a starting point.

For more information

Website of the DG Development and Cooperation - EuropeAid:

Website of EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle:

EU Delegation to Libya:

On the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI):

Contacts :

Anca Paduraru (+32 2 296 64 30)

Peter Stano (+32 2 295 74 84)

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