"Those despicable practices must not go unpunished" [fr]

Migrants in Libya - Speech by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 28 November 2017

"The images that have been circulated by the media in recent weeks are shocking. They highlight the urgent need to improve our global policy in the light of the migratory crisis and to put an end to this human tragedy." Ambassador François Delattre
JPEG - 76.7 kb
Migrants arriving in Libya
Credits: UNSMIL

I would like to begin by thanking the representatives of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Filippo Grandi, and the International Organization for Migration, Mr. William Swing, for their detailed, significant and unambiguous briefings on the situation of migrants in Libya. I also thank the Italian presidency for its engagement on this central topic.

Following the very constructive debate on trafficking in persons in conflict situations was organized by the Italian presidency on 21 November (see S/PV.8111), President Emmanuel Macron took the initiative of calling for this emergency meeting of the Security Council against the exploitation of migrants in Libya and trafficking in persons. The purpose of this important meeting of our Council is twofold.

First, we of course must seek not only to condemn but also to publicly denounce that barbaric practice, which is profoundly shockking to our universal conscience and constitutes a crime against humanity, so that it can be put to an end. Secondly, such action must follow specific concrete responses to the scourge, in both the immediate and the long terms, by using all resources within the framework of the law. That of course hinges — and I will revisit this point in a moment — on greater cooperation with the Libyan authorities and on a relentless fight against impunity, including through the International Criminal Court and through the imposition of sanctions against all individuals and entities that contribute to those barbaric acts. In that context, France naturally calls for a strong response from the Security Council.

The images that have been circulated by the media in recent weeks are shocking. They highlight the urgent need to improve our global policy in the light of the migratory crisis and to put an end to this human tragedy. We strongly condemn the inhumane treatment and violence suffered by all individuals in Libya, particularly migrants and refugees, as a result of their vulnerability. We must all keep in mind that trafficking in persons includes many forms of exploitation: kidnapping, forced labour, torture, arbitrary detention, sexual servitude and rape, to name but a few. Those despicable practices are not only morally unacceptable, but they also constitute crimes against humanity and must not and cannot be allowed to go unpunished.

In the face of such crimes, we have a duty not only to protect victims, but also to respect international and humanitarian law. The Security Council bears a special responsibility to combat this scourge, as trafficking in persons thrives in and fuels conflict areas. It is also used as a means to sow terror among peoples and has become a major source of funding and an instrument of retribution, for armed groups and even terrorist groups. For those reasons, trafficking in persons clearly constitutes a threat to international peace and security. Resolution 2388 (2017), which we adopted last Tuesday, is a further step forward in our common fight against trafficking and the exploitation of human beings.

But we are all aware that much remains to be done, and that we must act with a sense of urgency. We must act at several levels.

- We must first strengthen our cooperation with the Libyan authorities and help them in assuming their heavy responsibilities. We must urgently respond to the situation by putting an end to arbitrary detention and, in particular, the atrocities suffered by migrants in certain detention centres. We must also improve the sanitary conditions in those centres. We welcome the opening of an investigation by the Libyan authorities, and hope that it will be completed as soon as possible.

- The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, met in Tripoli with the Libyan Minister of the Interior on 4 September. The Libyan authorities are aware of their duty to protect and assist migrants in their territory and to fully cooperate with the international organizations, to which France extends its full support. At the same time, we must take into account today’s reality of the Libyan State as a State in a precarious situation and a country that has endured several years of conflict and which has limited ability to act regarding the majority of migrants ensnared by trafficking networks, which are beyond the reach of Government centres. Our response will be ineffective if we do not acknowledge this complexity. We also call for the strengthening of dialogue with the Libyan authorities on the status of refugees and the right to asylum in Libya, as well as support for the development of economic alternatives in a country that has been a destination country for foreign labour in the past and remains so in part today.

- The development of Libyan capacities in this regard is therefore indispensable. Action on the part of the United Nations and by the European Union through EUNAVFOR Sophia seeks to strengthen the Libyan State, as well as its security and judicial institutions, with the aim of enabling Libya to better manage the migration crisis and to uphold international standards in the field of human rights.

- As I said, we must also leverage all the resources available to international law and justice, to which perpetrators of crimes against migrants in Libya must be held accountable. Impunity is simply not an option in the face of such horrors, and we will not accept it. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court indicated, during her briefings here in November and May (see S/PV.8091 and S/PV.7934), that she continues to receive information and evidence relating to alleged crimes against migrants transiting through Libya and that some such crimes may fall within the jurisdiction of the Court. She has our full support. It is important that Libya and all States concerned fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court, in line with resolution 1970 (2011).

- As per the recent call of the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, we must not hesitate to use the framework of the sanctions regime on Libya against traffickers and the individuals implicated in such inhumane practices. The regime, created by resolution 1970 (2011), enables us to impose targeted sanctions against individuals involved in the smuggling of migrants owing to their responsibility for grave violations of human rights. France will offer to assist the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, chaired by Sweden, in identifying the individuals and entities responsible for trafficking through Libyan territory. We count on the support of the members of the Council to make resolute progress in this direction.

- We must also work with countries of origin and transit to develop enhanced cooperation with the authorities of the countries concerned so as to encourage them to develop their asylum policies, in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. We must also encourage countries of origin to strengthen consular protection for their nationals and to support International Organization for Migration (IOM) initiatives for voluntary return whenever possible.

- It is clear that a lasting settlement to this tragedy is inextricably linked to an inclusive political solution to the conflict in Libya that places the Libyan State in a position to respond fully to it. This requires the establishment of a unified army under civilian authority and, initially, by strengthening the Libyan coast guard. In that regard, it is critical that Libyan political actors recognize the importance of moving quickly to implement the plan of action of the United Nations Special Representative to put an end to a conflict in which the primary victims are Libyans themselves. The exploitation and violations of the fundamental rights of migrants on Libyan territory are fuelled by political and security instability, feeding back into the dynamics of the conflict. To break this vicious circle, we reaffirm our full support for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Ghassan Salamé, and for his action plan, which remains the sole valid framework for the negotiations under way. In the immediate term, this requires the adoption of the necessary amendments to the Skhirat Agreement.

- Finally, in accordance with the commitments made at the Paris summit on 28 August, we shall continue to fight alongside our European and African partners against the trafficking of migrants in all its forms by targeting criminal organizations and smuggling networks and acting decisively to dismantle and destroy the economic model of the traffickers. Subsequent to this agreement, it is possible to work concretely with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the IOM, in collaboration with the Libyan authorities, in order to improve living conditions for migrants in official camps, facilitate the efforts of these organizations with the Government of National Accord, and promote the transfer of the most vulnerable to the Niger with a view to their resettlement. We hope to identify, as we have begun to do in connection with our African partners, the men and women who can benefit from the protection of the right to asylum and enable the most vulnerable to find refuge in Europe. The President of the Republic, who is currently in Ouagadougou, has just confirmed his desire to see other Europeans join France in this initiative.

In conclusion, Mr. President, you can count on France to pursue its mobilization in favour of a unified and decisive approach on the part of the Security Council. On this crucial and vital issue, the Council must adopt a strong position with specific measures and tangible measures commensurate with the challenges we face.

Dernière modification : 19/07/2018

Top of the page