Five years have passed since the signing of the memorandum on February 2, 2017 by the then prime ministers Paolo Gentiloni, for Italy, and Fayez al-Sarraji, for the Libyan national reconciliation government. According to its official purpose, it was supposed to stop departures and deaths at sea. In reality, it has fueled rights violations, arbitrary detentions and lucrative businesses on the backs of migrants.
In summary, Oxfam estimates 8,000 deaths in that stretch of sea and 80,000 interceptions of the “Libyan coast guard” since 2017. More than half of these occurred while Luciana Lamorgese was sitting in the Viminale: 46,700, with a monthly average of 1,668 (which in 2021 rose to 2,602). When the Minister of the Interior was Matteo Salvini, 13,600 migrants were captured, 969 per month. With Minniti, 19,700, and a monthly average of 1,234 (data processing by ISPI researcher Matteo Villa).
In the last five years there have been 255,000 landings in Italy; 80,000 more arrivals would not have changed the fate of the country. The interceptions, however, changed the life of each person involved, reinserting them into the circuit of violence and abuse of the centers. In Libya, 27 official detention facilities coexist with “clandestine” prisons of which little or nothing is known. According to Oxfam, in 2021 the traces of 20,000 migrants brought back to land were lost. Their presence has not been recorded in government centers.
“Since the agreement was signed, Italy has spent €962 million to block migratory flows and to finance Italian and European naval missions,” says Paolo Pezzati, Oxfam Italia policy adviser. Over €32 million went to the “coast guard” accused by UN agencies and NGOs of using brutal methods against migrants and of collusion with smugglers. On January 22, the president of the Palermo Court of Appeal Matteo Frasca inaugurated the judicial year by mentioning a “centralized and top-down direction also attributable to members of Libyan institutions” which governs criminal groups dedicated to illegal immigration and trafficking.
Meanwhile, the issue of human rights has been completely evaded. In November 2019, in the debate on the first renewal of the three-year agreement, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio declared his intention to improve the memorandum “with particular attention to migrant centers and conditions.” We know nothing of the announced convocation for this purpose of the joint Italian-Libyan commission, provided for by Article 3. But we do know that migrants in prison have increased tenfold between January and October 2021. We know of the violence in the centers and on the streets, such as the roundup of 5,000 refugees last October in Tripoli. “Murders, slavery, torture and imprisonment form part of a systematic and widespread attack directed against this population, in support of a state policy,” says the report of the UN independent investigation mission.
Two dossiers against Italy and the European Union presented to the International Criminal Court in The Hague by the lawyer Omer Shatz in 2019 and by a pool of law associations two weeks ago (UpRights, Holland; Adala for all, France; StraLi, Italy). They say the “Libyan hell” is not a side effect, but the direct product of the anti-migrant agreements.
This is also supported by ASGI, which is now publishing a long document signed by 100 firms — including Emergency, Fondazione Migrantes, Un Ponte Per, UIL — to ask for the revocation of the memorandum. This, the text reads, “is in fact facilitating the structuring of models of exploitation and enslavement within which violence that amounts to crimes against humanity is systematically perpetrated.”