Jeff Crisp Bosphorus Migration Studies Libya

My name is Jeff Crisp. I completed Ph.D. in African History in 1980, but for most of the time since then, I have been focusing on refugee, migration and humanitarian issues. I spent most of my career at UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, where I was Head of Policy Development and Evaluation. I am now affiliated to the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford and Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs) in London.

My main interest is in the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of global refugee policy. While I try not to specialize too much, I have worked specifically on urban refugee issues, the return and reintegration of refugees, protracted refugee situations, internal displacement and mixed migratory movements. Geographically, my main interests are in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Australia.


 

With respect to Libya, I don’t expect to see any satisfactory or immediate solutions to the refugee and migration issue. The country remains politically unstable and is still affected by widespread violence, much of it committed by warlords and militia forces. Many of the refugees and migrants living in the country are desperate to escape because they are subject to all forms of abuse and exploitation. Unfortunately, the EU has become obsessed with preventing the departure of these vulnerable people and is supporting the efforts of the Libyan coastguard to intercept and detain those who attempt to leave by boat. Militia groups that were previously engaged in human smuggling out of Libya now seem to be playing a major role in obstructing such movements. The UN appears to be compromised by its relationship with and dependence on funds from the EU and has been reluctant to criticize the interception and return of refugees and migrants, despite the fact that these actions are a violation of the non-refoulement principle and the right to seek asylum.

 

Given the violence and human rights violations taking place in Libya, which includes arbitrary detention, trafficking and slave labor, a readmission agreement with Libya should be out of the question. At the moment, however, the EU’s desperation to stop the flow of people means that nothing can be ruled out. We should remember, for example, that the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, has always favored a military response to the situation, suggesting, for example, that boats should be destroyed in Libya to prevent people leaving the country. Italy has also been responsible for questioning the integrity of search-and-rescue NGOs in the Mediterranean and making it impossible for them to operate near the Libyan coast.

 

In these difficult circumstances, think-tanks such as Bosphorus Migration Studies have an important role in helping the international community to develop a better understanding of migratory trends in the region, and to develop responses which are effective, equitable and consistent with international human rights and refugee law.

Above all, Bosphorus Migration Studies can point out that ‘refugees’ and ‘migrants’ are human beings with needs and aspirations, people who simply want to find a more peaceful and prosperous future for themselves and their families.