• A number of EU member states are preparing to send a letter to the European Commission to call for agreements that would enable intercepted migrants to be transferred to third countries before they reach Europe.
  • The EU has signed a ‘migration management’ deal with Lebanon.
  • Tunisian authorities have dismantled camps in the centre of Tunis and expelled migrants ‘to the Algerian border’.
  • More than 100 migrants who had been held in captivity for seven months in Libya have been liberated.

A group of EU member states (MS) led by Czechia and Denmark are preparing to send a letter to the European Commission (EC) to call for migrants who try to reach the EU to be transferred to selected third countries before they arrive in Europe. Commenting on the proposal, which is reportedly “supported by the majority of member states, including the Netherlands, the Baltic states and Italy”, Undersecretary of State in Italy’s Interior Ministry, Nicola Molteni MP, told Euractiv Italy: “Outsourcing and relocation of asylum applications has a threefold function: to fight more effectively the criminal organisations dedicated to human trafficking, as a deterrence tool against illegal departures, and as a means of relieving migratory pressure on the countries of first entry, such as Italy or Greece or Spain or Cyprus or Malta”. This is not the first time that EU MS have proposed this approach. In 2021, Denmark passed a law to pave the way for the externalisation of asylum procedures and the protection of refugees outside Europe, despite the lack of bilateral agreements with third countries willing to accept asylum seekers from the country. At the time, ECRE member organisation the Danish Refugee Council condemned the move as “irresponsible and lacking in solidarity”. Regarding the latest development, critics have reportedly argued that the Czech government wanted to reopen the migration debate ahead of the upcoming European Parliament elections as it had been facing growing criticism for approving the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum.

The EU has signed a deal with Lebanon under which it will provide €1 billion over three years to support the country’s economy and prevent irregular migration to Europe. While some of the money will be allocated for the country’s basic services, three quarters of it has been specifically earmarked for “assisting” Lebanon as a host country for Syrian refugees. “We understand the challenges that Lebanon faces with hosting Syrian refugees and other displaced persons. It is vital to ensure the well-being of host communities and Syrian refugees,” said EC President Ursula von der Leyen. The deal comes after Cyprus declared a “crisis” following an increase in the number arrivals from Syria via Lebanon and pressured the EU to intervene. Von der Leyen also said that the EU would work closely with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for a “more structured approach to voluntary returns” of displaced Syrians. The signature of the EU-Lebanon deal came shortly after the UNHCR had informed the Lebanese ministry of health that it was planning to halve the support for healthcare coverage it was providing to refugees in Lebanon. According to the Lebanese ministry, the UNHCR’s decision was taken due to “drastic budget cuts caused by crises around the world”. The deal has already received criticism from various quarters. Kelly Petillo from the European Council on Foreign Relations rejected the notion that it was intended to support Syrian refugees. “This is first and foremost about preventing migration to Cyprus and to the rest of Europe,” she said, adding: “Giving money to the Lebanese military means more insecurity for Syrian refugees”. She also cast doubt on whether it would achieve its goal. “They face more pressure to leave by themselves or be deported. That will result in the opposite of what von der Leyen apparently wants to achieve, creating more pressure for Syrians to move towards Europe.” The Economist’s Middle East correspondent wrote on X: “For five-plus years the EU insisted there would be no significant aid to Lebanon without serious political reform, and Lebanese politicians refused to make any reforms and gambled that the EU would eventually blink. You’ll never guess who won the standoff”. Meanwhile, ECRE member organisation Amnesty International EU has urged both the EU and the Lebanese government to respect their “obligations under international law and not forcibly return refugees to Syria as long as the conditions for safe, voluntary and dignified returns are not met”.

According to the NGO the Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights (FTDES), makeshift settlements in Tunis, were destroyed on 3 May as migrants were “deported to the Algerian border”. “At least 300 migrants, including refugees and asylum-seekers, as well as women and children, were forcibly evacuated overnight,” a spokesperson from the organisation reported. Following the incident, hundreds of Tunisians gathered in the town of El Amra on 4 May to protest about the existence of the camps. Tarek Mahdi MP said that the “immediate solution” would be to get migrants to “leave urban areas and cities”. On 9 May, a video by the NGO Refugees in Libya showed a group of civil society and human rights activists protesting against the expulsions of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. The latest expulsions occurred a few days after Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s visit to Tunis to sign deals aimed at curbing migration and shortly after the European Ombudsman had announced that she would be renewing her inquiry into how the EC intended to guarantee respect for human rights in the context of the EU-Tunisia agreement. Elsewhere, Saadia Mosbah, an anti-discrimination activist in Tunisia, was arrested on 8 May in what Africanews described as a “money laundering investigation”. According to the President of the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights, Bassem Trifi, Mosbah’s arrest followed a social media post in which she condemned the racism that she had encountered in her advocacy work, particularly relating to helping migrants.

In Libya, the Maltese Minister for Home Affairs, Security, Reforms and Equality, Byron Camilleri, travelled to Benghazi on 7 May to meet the de facto leader of the government of the eastern part of the country, General Khalifa Belqasim Omar Haftar. According to the Maltese Ministry of Home Affairs, Haftar and Camilleri discussed Mediterranean security and agreed to increase co-operation on training, fighting trafficking and other crimes, and education. Elsewhere, 107 migrants, including a number of women and children, have been freed from captivity by Libyan authorities after seven months of detention. “We raided a hideout in the downtown of Kufra last night and we found irregular migrants including women, children and old men. Some have marks of torture and bullets,” said the Libyan Criminal Investigation Department’s spokesperson, Walid Alorafi. A video baring the Libyan police stamp that was posted on X by the NGO Migrant Rescue Watch, showed Libyan officials sweeping the compound to rescue the migrants.

Recent articles