The fluttering wings of the IMPACS report have nestled onto the mere subconscious of Saint Lucian minds, like many other instances relating to murder, that is, until the subject is once again launched in the House of Assembly as a political missile towards the other side of the room. Here people pick a side – red or yellow, Labour or Flambeau – and are willing to sacrifice life and legacy in the name of good governance, It’s the same epidemic that African refugee camps experience on the shores of Libya.
Of course this is not the first time that Libya has been in the media spotlight. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, for about 40 years, had been in a back-and-forth of political misconduct until 2011 when some Libyans hoped his death would bring progress for the country and others were outraged at the loss of their leader. Now, Libyans are facing a civil upheaval because governance is sectioned, and refugees in Libya experience ghastly fates.
Migrants from varying parts of Africa, fleeing social conflict and civil war, make their way to the coasts of Libya on the passport of hope of crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Italy and the rest of Europe. However, the residual lawlessness in post-Gaddafi Libya makes it conducive for militia and officials to corrupt detention centres and refugee camps.
International reporters continue to voice hundreds of stories about sexual and physical abuse, and modern day slavery induced on immigrants, specifically a video captured by CNN, which sparked enough global outrage for international governments to close in on the United Nations action.
Humans are reportedly being sold for as little as 400 dinar (Libyan currency) and women and girls in detention centres are sold for sexual exploitation. Refugees have claimed to be ransomed by the “bosses” when the detention centres become overcrowded.
It was pleasing to notice that young people right here at home were abreast of, and concerned about, the violence occurring in Libya, some making social media statements condemning the practice. Minister for Home Affairs, National Security and Justice, Senator Hermangild Francis shared his sentiments as well, stating that the Government of Saint Lucia denounces modern-day slavery. The press release stated, “I think the Government has made its position clear on modern day slavery, and human trafficking.” But, of course, the statement would only be solidified when the Minister for External Affairs and Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, sounds the horn.
The most inhumane allegation about the Libyan crisis is that of the European Union funding the Libyan coastguard to keep refugees from crossing the borders in an effort to regulate the number of immigrants entering Europe. Researchers and numerous reports say that this breaches international law. An article from The Independent states, “A new report [by Refugees International] has accused the EU of disregarding human rights and international law in its desperation to slow refugee boat crossings across the Mediterranean Sea. The bloc has pledged tens of millions of euros in funding for authorities in Libya, despite the country’s ongoing civil war and allegations of torture, rape and killings earning it the moniker “hell on Earth” among migrants.”
The EU-Libyan Relations Factsheet does in fact cite millions of euros to be invested in migrant protection and coastguard in Libya. But the United States-based Refugee International recommends in its report: “The fate of people who are seeking international protection is effectively absent from the plans outlined by EU leaders to tackle the Central Mediterranean route.“With the ongoing violence and chaos in Libya, a country that lacks an asylum system and where the rule of law is absent, EU countries must accept people on their territory through orderly, legal processes that are viable alternatives to ruthless criminal networks.
“The EU and its member states should also ensure that their funding and actions in Libya do not result in or contribute to human rights abuses against refugees and migrants.”
Similarly our political ties with the United States are at precarious ends with accusations of breaching human rights, namely with investigations into an IMPACS report, which has caused the suspension of US aid to our police force. The sanction has strongly influenced investigations, and US terms are blatant on prosecution of persons involved in the alleged shootings. In an interview with Senator Francis last month, he mentioned the following in relation to IMPACS, “It is not only Americans that are not assisting us. The European government does not want to assist us [police]. As long as America says something, the EU, Europe will follow them.”
However, the European Union has continuously invested in our health care, agriculture, infrastructure and natural disaster relief. With our government’s bold claims of denouncing modern-day slavery, will it stand against the influential European Union’s decisions?
After the last meeting held with Saint Lucian Government and EU Ambassador Daniela Tramacere in June 2017, Prime Minister Chastanet declared to media, “The need for us to make some tough decisions and to make sure that we get our economy straightened out is critical.”
Hopefully it’s not at a cost of condoning human trafficking and slavery.