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Remarks by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans

Good morning to all of you. As you know, we’ve discussed migration many times in this press over the last three years. We’ve seen many challenges. With the Member States, international organisations and the NGO’s we’ve worked together, towards security at our borders, better management and control within our borders, and stability beyond our borders.

On the one hand we saw the sad plight of refugees, fleeing from war and persecution but also migrants simply in search of a better life. On the other hand we saw the fact that some of our citizens felt overwhelmed with so many people arriving so suddenly without any certainty that governments had control over it or that Europe had control over it. Without any idea if and when this was going to stop. And with questions about whether our welfare societies might buckle under the strain.

We need to do this for our citizens. We need to be here for our citizens. We need to manage this issue for our citizens. But also for the people who need protection. Let me be very clear. This issue will be with us for at least another generation, if not two. If there is anybody who thinks that if the short term crisis is over, the issue migration can sort of fade into the background, that would be mistaken.

We now need to move from an ad hoc crisis response to structural solutions that can provide a safety net to any EU country that is acutely exposed to very high migration pressures. We have to admit that the instruments such as we have them now, do not provide the answer to that challenge.

Solutions that we need to find must simultaneously protect our common borders, save lives, stop the smugglers, relieve inhumane suffering, give refuge to those in need and return those who have no right to stay; and also solutions that focus on tackling the root causes of migration in close cooperation and partnerships with third countries, especially in Africa.

We need to be realistic: this is an issue that needs policy and needs an integral approach. Migration is and will be a permanent feature of our life. And issues such as climate change, geopolitical upheaval, poor governance, and demographic developments all will have their influence on migratory flows.

And no matter what people may want you to believe: there is no sea wide enough, no fence high enough, to prevent people from coming if desperation takes a hold. If they don’t see any alternative, they will climb even the highest wall. That’s not what we need to do.

Europe is the continent of solidarity, and our doors will remain open for those in need of protection. But we must be able to manage arrivals collectively in an organised and more structural view. The only way we can ensure that those who need protection will receive protection, is if we can also ensure that those who are not entitled to protection return to their places of origin or stay where they belong.

Our citizens deserve to have a robust, resilient, future-oriented European migration policy which is fair to all member states and calls upon all member states to show solidarity and responsibility.

As I alluded to earlier, experience shows that unilateral policies are expensive, erode our mutual trust, harm the Schengen system and ultimately will all fail. Only a truly comprehensive approach by us all, Commission, Parliament, Council and Member States will deliver real results to the challenge of migration.

You know that we have already put many proposals on the table. Out of the main 23 border and migration proposals presented, 15 are still outstanding and need to be adopted. It is essential that Parliament and Council now move forward quickly. Because without all these building blocks – all building blocks are necessary – you cannot have a comprehensive solution. If you leave one or two of the building blocks out that will not work. The others will fail as well.

This then is our contribution we want to make to the debate in the European Council next week and we hope and trust that Heads of State or Government will agree to this path, and give the necessary political impetus.

You know, people in our Member States, they don’t care at all if it’s the Commission, the Parliament or Council that has to make the next move. Because for many we’re all the same. Every Citizens’ Dialogue I do, people say: “Europe is failing us.” They’re not saying: “The Commission is failing us, or the Parliament is failing us or the Council is failing us.” They’re saying collectively we’re not providing the solutions we should be providing. So everyone has to take its responsibility. And we need to do so before a next crisis catches us unawares.

And we have made progress over the years. Our joint efforts to respond to the migration and refugee crisis have led to tangible results, with irregular arrivals significantly down in both the Eastern and the Central Mediterranean.

We have set up in record speed the European Border and Coast Guard to strengthen control of our external borders and provide rapid assistance to Member States who are exposed to severe migratory pressure.

We reached out to partner countries to tackle the root causes of migration. The EU-Turkey Statement has resulted in the reduction of dangerous journeys across the Aegean by 97%, virtually eliminating the tragic loss of life, delivering a blow to the criminal business of the people smugglers.

The EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey has ensured that 1 million of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in Turkey receive monthly cash transfers. And 2 million Syrian refugees will get access to primary healthcare service.

The launch of the first EU-wide resettlement scheme in July 2015 and the EU-Turkey Statement has offered legal pathways to almost 26,000 people.

But, we’re not there yet. We have been struggling with relocation, with preparing and outfitting refugee accommodation for the winter, with the bad and deteriorating conditions in Libya, with increasing numbers of arrivals from Northern Africa, low returns from Europe and the fact that internal border controls persist.

On a side note let me say that with regard to relocation, we are today referring Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland to the Court, as they have given no indication, even after the reasoned opinion issued last summer, that they will respect their legal obligations and contribute to showing solidarity with Greece and Italy.

So what’s the way forward? We must stay the course and further consolidate our comprehensive migration approach by putting in place the remaining building blocks of the internal and external dimensions of migration policy.

If you put all these bricks together, you have a very strong building. If you leave one brick out, the building will remain weak.

Before the summer of 2016, we’ve put forward a package of instruments to reform the EU’s asylum policy. Everyone agrees on the importance of these reforms – but a year and a half after the proposals were made, the legislative process between the Council and Parliament has not advanced on some parts of the package, and the momentum seems to actually be fading.

The most contested aspect of these reforms is the Dublin Regulation, and more specifically the use of compulsory relocation as an expression of solidarity.

Taking into account positions expressed by the European Parliament and the Council discussions, one way forward could be to adopt an approach where the component of compulsory relocation would apply to situations of serious crisis, while in less challenging situations, relocation would be based on voluntary commitments from Member States. In those situations it could be possible to envisage solidarity being provided in different forms.

The Commission will do its best and play its role in helping the Parliament and Council to reach a compromise that is the right one for this Union and a fair one for all Member States.

In any event, everyone has to pull their weight. For that, the only means for the Union to function is when we share its benefits, share its burdens and help each other in difficult times.

As the Treaty states: the area of border checks, asylum and immigration shall be governed by the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, including financial implications, between the Member States.

While we can and should cooperate with third countries to tackle root causes of migration, we cannot control them. But we can determine what goes on in our own house. So let’s get it in order.

Beyond reforming our common European asylum system, there are a number of important things that must be done in parallel to manage migration better. And all those elements require political will, real commitment, and of course money.

We need to consolidate the progress achieved together so far and deliver on the comprehensive reform package by June next year – this is what we propose to EU leaders today.

We understand this won’t be easy. But the only way to confront an issue as complicated and as big as migration, is to find a comprehensive set of solutions that are proportionate to the challenge of getting back to Schengen and finally moving from an ad hoc to a structural approach.

In today’s Communication we set out a step-by-step roadmap of what could be done from now until June next year.

First, the internal dimension. With regard to the asylum reform package: the EU Asylum agency and Eurodac proposals can be adopted by March. The same goes for a political agreement on the Qualification Regulation. This would facilitate reaching political agreement on the Reception Conditions Directive and the Resettlement Framework by May and starting trilogues on the Asylum Procedures Regulation also by May.

In parallel, the broad outlines with regard to solidarity and responsibility in the Dublin Regulation should be identified by April paving the way for an agreement at the meeting of EU leaders in Sofia in May, swiftly followed by a position from the Council to start negotiations, and a final political deal on the overall reform during the June European Council.

Furthermore, we need to complete the pledging exercise for the new resettlement scheme by February, increase returns capacity and commit the necessary assets of staff for the European Border and Coast Guard by March, and launch the first pilot projects on legal migration for key partner countries and agree at least three further readmission arrangements by May.

Then on the external dimension: to ensure full and sustained implementation of the EU-Turkey statement, the next 3 billion Euro allocation should be mobilised soon.

In Libya, the EU must do more – much more – to help protect migrants and refugees, and by February help at least 15,000 persons stranded in Libya to voluntarily return to their countries and carry out 1000 resettlements from Libya to Europe through the UNHCR emergency scheme. By March, the existing funding gap of 340 million Euros to the North Africa Window of our Trust Fund should be closed, with contributions hopefully by all Member States.

By May, we need to adopt the first wave of projects under the European Sustainable Development Fund. The work of the EU-African Union Task Force should be supported too.

In conclusion, by agreeing how to fairly balance and share solidarity and responsibility, the EU can respond to one of the biggest concerns of its citizens.

This will inspire the confidence of our citizens that we can jointly control migration, that we can rebuild mutual trust and secure the unity between our Member States which, ultimately, is our greatest asset.

And most important of all, it will help us continue to see people in need as fellow human beings who deserve European solidarity. Not people to be feared because they disrupt us. People we can help, because they come into a European Union that is able and willing, with all its assets, to make sure that people who seek protection because they flee from war and prosecution actually get that protection.

Key meeting for May as Brexit talks enter decisive phase

NNA – Theresa May hopes to break the Brexit talks deadlock on Monday with a new offer on divorce settlements at a crunch meeting with EU officials, as some of her party members urge her to walk away unless there is progress.

EU officials and diplomats say they are increasingly optimistic a deal can be struck on Monday, while cautioning that things could still go wrong.

Over lunch with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Union Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, the British prime minister will try to persuade them to start discussions on a new trade pact and a two-year transitional deal.

The European Union has given May until Monday to put forward a more comprehensive offer on the remaining separation issues before officials recommend moving onto discussing trade and future ties.

They want a pledge that Britain will pay what it owes the bloc when leaving, protect the rights of EU citizens living in Britain and ensure there is no hard border between the north and south of Ireland.

The EU has said it will allow negotiations on the Britain’s future trade relations with the EU to begin only when there has been sufficient progress on these separation issues.

Nadine Dorries, a member of Britain’s ruling Conservative Party who supports Brexit, said May should tell EU officials time is running out to move talks on to the next phase.

The EU has had “enough time now to decide whether or not they are going to discuss trade with us, they need to get on with it and if they don’t get on with it the closer we get to walking away with no deal”, she said.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and his Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will meet EU lawmakers early on Monday, an EU official said on Sunday.

However, EU officials and diplomats cautioned that it was still unclear that a deal would be struck with the British prime minister when she meets the EU executive.

May portrays Monday’s meeting as part of preparations for an EU summit on Dec. 15 – though the EU says Monday is the last chance for her to make offers as there will be no negotiations at the summit itself. A British spokesman said: “With plenty of discussions still to go, Monday will be an important staging post on the road to the crucial December Council.”

Since the referendum in 2016, high-profile opponents of Brexit have suggested Britain could change its mind and avoid what they say will be a disaster for its economy.

Half of Britons support a second vote on whether to leave the EU, according to an opinion poll published on Sunday.

CLOCK TICKING

With the clock ticking down to the March 2019 exit date, May is under pressure to start talks on its future trade ties by the end of the year to remove the cloud of uncertainty for companies that do business in the EU.

If talks on Monday go well then EU leaders could give a green light to trade talks at their summit on Dec. 14-15.

More than 30 pro-Brexit supporters, including members of parliament and former Conservative ministers, have signed a letter calling on May to walk away from talks unless key conditions are met.

They include an end to free movement of people from the EU into Britain and for the European Court of Justice to have no further role in British legal matters after March 2019.

With significant headway apparently made on the financial settlement and EU citizens’ rights, a deal on the Irish border appears to be the main hurdle in the talks.

The almost invisible border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, a key component of the 1998 Irish peace agreement, was possible because both sides were in the EU and its single market.

Ireland has called on Britain to provide details of how it will ensure there is no “regulatory divergence” after Brexit in March 2019 that would require physical border controls.

But any solution will need the support of Northern Ireland’s pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party, whose 10 members of parliament are propping up May’s government.

The Democratic Unionist Party has said it will not support any deal that leads to Northern Ireland operating under different rules from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said on Sunday his country had “no desire” to delay the UK’s Brexit talks, although not enough progress had been made so far.

An Irish government official said late on Sunday there was “still a away to go” on reaching a deal.

“The Irish government remains hopeful,” the official said. “But at this stage it is very difficult to make a prediction.” —-Reuters

=========R.A.H.

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How Europe’s panic over migration and terrorism is a big opportunity for Africa

Video footage of African migrants detained on their way to Europe being sold as slaves in Libya has provoked outrage and dismay in Africa and the wider international community. As a result, migration has been placed at the top of the agenda of this week’s fifth triennial African Union-European Union summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

For Europe, migration has become an almost existential problem. The influx in 2015 of more than one million refugees and migrants fleeing war, persecution and poverty in the Middle East and Africa created deep divisions and raised difficult questions about the EU’s commitment to open borders. It is threatening the viability of the union and providing an opening for right-wing, anti-immigrant, anti-Islam political parties and movements across the continent.

For Africa, despite the tragic deaths of many of those in transit, the migration of its citizens to Europe has not been a major concern. The vast majority of African migrants, contrary to perceptions in Europe, move between countries on the continent, which places great strain on host nations such as South Africa and Senegal.

Unsurprisingly, these opposing views mean that the EU and the AU have very different priorities. The EU is doggedly focused on trying to prevent illegal migrants reaching its shores whereas the AU is looking for ways to increase legal routes to Europe for Africans. It is essential that these two positions are reconciled.

Leaders from Africa and Europe last met in 2014, and until now African resistance meant that migration was not even formally tabled for discussion. But the emergence of the images of modern-day slave trafficking, which followed oral accounts of Libyan slave auctions that surfaced in April this year, has shaken the African Union (AU) out of its torpor.

For its part, Europe has developed a two-pronged strategy to curb African migration and what it sees as the associated danger of terrorism.

First, it has tried to address the root causes of instability, forced displacement and illegal migration through investment compacts with selected countries. These deals have been heavily criticised for offering incentives for reducing migrant flows to repressive regimes, such as Sudan and Eritrea, whose own domestic policies fuel the exodus to Europe. While this containment policy had some success in reducing migrants transiting through Niger, for example, the reductions have often been short-lived as security forces are easily bribed by smugglers.

Second, the EU and its member states have tried to seal their Mediterranean Sea borders by increasing their military presence and counter-terrorism operations in the Sahel – a key transit route for illegal migrants. Taken together, these measures aimed at reducing migrant flows show that the EU is willing to do “whatever works”, as one European diplomat put it.

What the AU sees as the EU’s “fortress approach” to border control, coupled with ham-fisted European diplomacy, has alienated Africa. So too has the tendency of the media and populist politicians in Europe to link African migrants to increased terror attacks. A myopic focus on migration has increasingly become the lens through which the EU views its peace and security relationship with Africa.

Discussions in Abidjan this week should focus on gradually increasing access for skilled African workers, who could be essential given Europe’s rapidly aging population. The AU and EU should also look for common ground outside the question of migrant flows to and from Europe, for example by focusing more on the root causes of migration – something both institutions profess to have an interest in.

Europe’s panic over migration and terrorism represents a significant opportunity for Africa. The EU and its member states have money to spend provided they can be assured of quick wins that will help calm the fears of citizens. “If we talk about migration, anything is possible. […] we’ll pay,” explained one European diplomat.

If the AU and African governments really want to address the root causes of migration, they should leverage support for border control and fighting jihadists and terrorists against EU investment in education, job creation, better governance more evenly distributed economic growth throughout Africa.

This, however, requires coordination. Until now, competing national and regional interests have overridden a more unified African approach to migration that could bring continent-wide benefits. But the grim reality of the migrant slave trade in Libya seems to have stirred the pan-African conscience, and continental cooperation may now be possible.

High Commissioner for Refugees Calls Slavery, Other Abuses in Libya ‘Abomination’ That Can No Longer Be Ignored, while Briefing Security Council

Representative Says Country Targeted in Media Campaign of Defamation, Cannot Be Held Responsible for Problems It Did Not Cause

Slavery and other grave human rights abuses affecting migrants and refugees travelling to North Africa and beyond constituted an abomination that could no longer be ignored, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told the Security Council today.

Filippo Grandi said more than 116,000 people had crossed the sea from North Africa to Italy in 2017, many of them refugees.  The international community’s inability to prevent and resolve conflict was at the root of their flight, he explained, adding that they were exposed to appalling harm, including torture, rape, sexual exploitation, slavery and other forms of forced labour.  More than 17,000 refugees and migrants were currently detained in Libya, and many more were held by traffickers under the protection of well‑known militias.

He went on to state that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had successfully secured the release of almost 1,000 asylum seekers and refugees in 2017.  Plans for a transit centre in Tripoli were awaiting endorsement by Libya’s Government of National Accord, he said, adding that he had called for 40,000 additional resettlement places in transit and asylum countries along central Mediterranean routes.  However, to date, there were indications of just 10,500 places.

Robust measures were required to address human trafficking, for which UNHCR had made specific recommendations, including the freezing of assets, travel bans, disruption of revenues and materials, and robust prosecution of traffickers.  Too often, previous methods had centred on how to control and deter, which could have a dehumanizing effect, he said, underlining the need for comprehensive investment in a set of political, security and human rights solutions.  The Council’s leadership was critical to ensuring that outcome.

Also briefing the Council, William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that since the crisis in Libya, the agency had been trying to empty the detention centres.  IOM was working with Libyan authorities and many other partners, he said, pointing out that it was the agency that had broken the story about slave trading.  “It’s all about saving lives,” he said, emphasizing that he needed agreement from the Government to empty the centres.  Staff were also needed to provide travel documents so that the vast majority of migrants who wished to go home could do so.

Other delegates went on to condemn the slave trading, stressing that it constituted crimes against humanity.  They called for an end to impunity, including through investigations by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.  Many speakers welcomed efforts to ensure humane treatment for migrants and refugees, including those initiated by IOM and UNHCR.  Several speakers also called for support for the Libyan Government’s efforts to solidify its institutions, including the security sector, while underlining the need for a political solution to the situation there.

France’s representative said trafficking in persons constituted a major source of financing for terrorists and other armed groups, as well as a threat to international security.  He emphasized the need to leverage all international justice resources in order to hold the perpetrators accountable, including through sanctions targeting individuals.  Impunity could not be tolerated, he stressed.

Italy’s representative said human mobility and the situation in Libya remained at the centre of his country’s actions at the United Nations and in its November Council Presidency.  Resolution 2388 (2017) underscored that trafficking and the smuggling of persons in the Sahel were further exacerbating conflict and instability in that region, he said, adding that it provided the legal basis for a victim‑centred approach.

Libya’s representative pledged that none of the perpetrators of the sale of human beings would be allowed impunity, while emphasizing that his country was undergoing a crisis of instability and could not bear the full burden of migrant flows through its territory.  Describing Libya as the victim of a large‑scale media campaign of defamation, he said the international community must address the problem effectively by dealing with its root causes instead of contributing to the further defamation of his country.  Hundreds of thousands of people were transiting through Libya during a very difficult time in its history, and the country should not be held responsible for international problems that it had not caused, he emphasized.

Also delivering statements were representatives of the United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Egypt, Sweden, Uruguay, Japan, United States, Senegal, China, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Ukraine and Bolivia.

The meeting began at 9:07 a.m. and ended at 11 a.m.

Briefings

FILIPPO GRANDI, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, described slavery and other grave human rights abuses affecting migrants and refugees travelling towards North Africa and beyond as an abomination that could no longer be ignored.  More than 116,000 people had crossed the sea from North Africa to Italy in 2017, many of them refugees.  The international community’s inability to prevent and resolve conflict was at the root of their flight, he said, adding that they were exposed to appalling harm, including torture, rape, sexual exploitation, slavery and other forms of forced labour.

The situation in Libya was emblematic, he continued.  More than 17,000 refugees and migrants were currently in detention, and many more were held by traffickers under the protection of well‑known militias.  Bringing perpetrators to justice would be closely linked to progress on political solutions and functioning governance structures, he emphasized.  Meanwhile, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had successfully secured the release of almost 1,000 asylum seekers and refugees in 2017, and plans for a transit centre in Tripoli were awaiting the Government’s endorsement, he said, adding that progress was discernible but modest.  Security remained volatile, access to key locations was not possible and United Nations operations were managed remotely from Tunisia.

Rescue at sea remained a compelling imperative, he continued.  Support for Libya’s border management authorities, including the coast guard, must be complemented by broader measures to strengthen reception and asylum systems, he said, stressing the need for more safe and legal pathways, including greater opportunities for resettlement and family reunification.  He said that he had called for 40,000 additional resettlement places for transit and asylum countries along central Mediterranean routes, but to date, there were indications of just 10,500 places.  He said that his Office also supported efforts to accelerate the voluntary return of migrants to their countries of origin, in conjunction with UNHCR engagement in identifying asylum seekers and refugees in need of international protection.

UNHCR also stood ready to work with Governments to strengthen refugees’ access to protection and solutions in the first country they reached, but the required resources were currently lacking, he said.  Robust measures were required to address human trafficking, for which UNHCR had made specific recommendations, including the freezing of assets, travel bans, disruption of revenues and materials, and robust prosecution of traffickers.  Too often, methods had centred on how to control and deter, which could have a dehumanizing effect, he said, underlining the need for comprehensive investments in a set of political, security and human rights solutions.  The Council’s leadership was critical to ensuring that that happened.

WILLIAM LACY SWING, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that since the crisis in Libya, the agency had been trying to empty the detention centres so that smugglers would not be able to pursue their crimes.  IOM was working with Libyan authorities and many other partners, he said, pointing out that it was the agency that had broken the story about slave trading.  “It’s all about saving lives, and all of the elements are there now,” he said, while emphasizing that he needed agreement from the Government to empty the centres and the ability to land large aircraft for that purpose.  Staff were needed to provide travel documents so that the vast majority of migrants wishing to return home could do so, noting that reintegration in the home countries would then be required.  The continued help of the African Union, the European Union and other partners was needed for those purposes.

Statements

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) welcomed the announcement of investigations into slave trading in Libya and called for all to ensure that those responsible were held to account.  Migration must be safe, legal and well‑managed, and its root causes addressed, he emphasized.  The United Kingdom would continue to work with the authorities on improving the centres under their control and providing other assistance, but a stable Libya was the most important element in improving the situation.  Efforts to combat terrorism must be integrated with anti‑trafficking initiatives into “a holistic, cross‑pillar approach” by the United Nations, he said.  Reaffirming that the existence of slavery was reprehensible, he said it was only through sustained, united action that it could be eradicated.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) recalled that his country’s President had called for an emergency meeting to address the intolerable situation of migrants in Libya.  France strongly condemned the inhumane treatment of the victims and the violations of their rights, and urged Council members to end the barbaric practice, which constituted crimes against humanity.  He called for greater cooperation with the authorities, for fighting impunity, including through the International Criminal Court, and for an urgent global response.  Noting that trafficking in persons fuelled conflict and constituted a major source of financing for terrorist and other armed groups, he said it also clearly constituted a threat to international security.  Although the Libyan authorities were aware of their duty, the situation in the country must be taken into account, he said, stressing the indispensable need to support the development of Libyan capacities.  All international justice resources, including sanctions targeting individuals, must be leveraged to hold perpetrators accountable, he said.  Cooperation with origin and transit countries was also needed to help them develop their asylum policies and shore up the protection of their nationals.  A lasting settlement of the tragedy would be linked to a solution to the conflict in Libya, which needed a unified army and coast guard, he said.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), expressing deep concern over the situation of migrants from sub‑Saharan Africa, emphasized that the sale of human beings must be condemned in the strongest terms.  The Council must send a strong message on the matter, and urgent action was also needed to dismantle the detention camps, end the trafficking and investigate the crimes being committed.  Strengthening Libyan capacity for that purpose was critical, he stressed.  All relevant United Nations agencies must be engaged in actions to end human trafficking, protect victims and address root causes, such as the extreme poverty that forced young people to undertake such a dangerous journey.  In addition, there was a need to pursue assistance to refugees and migrants, and to expand opportunities for resettlement.  He welcomed Rwanda’s initiative to accept at‑risk migrants.  Stressing that Libya must return to stability through the accepted political framework, he voiced hope that the Council would send the right signal to end the unacceptable practice of profiting from the sale of human beings.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said a concerted international effort was needed to fight the exploitation of migrants and to address the root causes of their plight.  He condemned the trade in human beings and welcomed Libya’s announcement that it would investigate and punish those responsible.  Egypt would offer any help needed for that purpose, he said, noting his country’s ongoing support for efforts to enable Libya’s people to reach an accepted and sustainable solution to their country’s current crisis.  Expressing concern over security in the Sahel region, he stressed the importance of the G5 Sahel joint force in confronting the risks, and affirmed the international responsibility to support that initiative.  Migration flows must be managed, assistance provided to migrants and development accelerated in their countries of origin, he said.

CARL ORRENIUS SKAU (Sweden) said he had been horrified by the recent video footage of reported slave markets in Libya, the latest in a litany of abuses suffered by refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons there.  The Council must demand accountability, he said, welcoming the Government’s announcement of an investigation and the United Nations initiative to work with the authorities on a transparent monitoring mechanism to safeguard vulnerable groups.  Sweden would welcome a report by the Secretary‑General to the Council on the matter of slavery, he said, calling for a fact‑finding mission to Libya.  In addition, Sweden supported the initiative by the office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to explore the possibility of investigating crimes related to human trafficking and smuggling, and was open to the use of sanctions to target those crimes.  The humanitarian situation must be improved, he went on, calling on Libyan authorities to ensure full humanitarian access to detention centres.  It was crucial to find sustainable alternatives to detention, especially for vulnerable groups, he said, adding that Sweden supported UNHCR efforts to protect the needs of refugees, including through its Emergency Evacuation and Temporary Resettlement Mechanism.

LUIS HOMERO BERMÚDEZ ÁLVAREZ (Uruguay), noting that reports about the operation of slave markets had been emerging from Libya and other countries, said it was necessary to take concrete actions in response.  While States had failed in the past to address the issue collectively, there was still time to hold those responsible to account.  Hundreds of thousands of sub‑Saharan immigrants had been subjected to actions constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity, he said, emphasizing that the United Nations must take up its responsibility to help the Libyan authorities protect the most vulnerable migrants.  Condemning human trafficking and crimes that exploited and dehumanized vulnerable people, he said the proliferation of armed conflict in the region had triggered a raft of consequences, including unprecedented mass migration.  The plight of refugees was seen as a “lucky break” by those profiting from their plight, he said, emphasizing that the problem was not a matter of concern for the countries of origin alone, but also for transit countries.  Therefore, efforts to tackle the issue required a common purpose, he said, stressing also that States must promote and protect the fundamental human rights of all migrants, irrespective of their status.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said the international community must make the utmost efforts to eliminate human trafficking, forced labour, slavery and similar practices.  Calling upon the Libyan Government to ensure justice and accountability on the part of those responsible for selling migrants into slavery, he expressed hope that such action would deter similar crimes in the future.  There was a need to solidify Government institutions, including the security sector, and to address the root causes of forced migration, he said.  The Council must address the trafficking of migrants by working not only with Libya, but also with other Member States in the region and with regional organizations, he added.

MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said many disturbing reports had emerged about the treatment of asylum seekers in Libya, where human traffickers detained them in appalling conditions.  They were forced to work, or sold off to the highest bidder.  As such, the United States welcomed efforts to ensure humane treatment for migrants and refugees, including those initiated by IOM and UNHCR, she said, noting that her country had contributed generously to such programmes, including $100 million to help migrants in Libya and those displaced internally by violence.  The only long‑term solution to the challenge was to stabilize Libya, she said, noting that smuggling networks also trafficked in arms and narcotics, thereby contributing to instability and affecting the entire Mediterranean and Sahel regions.  Any opportunity to disrupt that cycle should be taken, she said, stressing that Council members should recommit to a secure Libya and fully support the Libyan Political Agreement.  As such, all actors should engage with the United Nations in good faith, she said, cautioning that any attempt to impose a military solution would only destabilize the country further.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal), stating that today’s briefings confirmed the scope, gravity and complexity of the situation of sub‑Saharan African migrants, reaffirmed his delegation’s condemnation of trafficking in human beings.  Senegal had arranged the repatriation of some of its own citizens in dangerous migratory situations, he said, welcoming Libya’s decision to open an investigation into the reports of slave trading.  It was vital to ensure accountability for such crimes, and if national justice systems were not up to that task, international justice must step in, he said, stressing the importance of regional and international cooperation as well as sharing of information for that purpose.  As for Libya, only when that country was united under a stable Government with unified institutions would it be able to exercise control over all its territory, he said.  More generally, a global approach would be needed to promote both development and regular migration, based on human rights and addressing root causes of conflict, including instability and poverty.  Senegal would support a presidential statement for that purpose.

SHEN BO (China) said that international cooperation should help to alleviate the migration crisis and also focus on a political resolution of the crisis in Libya.  China supported any effort to help Libyans reach that goal through dialogue and negotiation.  The international community should also be united in fighting terrorism and recruitment by extremists, by addressing root causes, strengthening border controls and implementing all the provisions of Council resolutions, he emphasized.  Resolutions against trafficking must also be implemented, while root causes must be addressed through implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  China would continue to contribute to such efforts and to work for stability in Libya, he pledged.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan), expressing deep concern over the plight of refugees, joined fellow members in condemning the sale of human beings, and in calling for the urgent investigation and prosecution of those involved in such heinous crimes.  There must be cooperation among security agencies to end all human trafficking, he emphasized, calling also for orderly regular migration, investment in development and a political settlement to the crisis in Libya.

EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) said that, considering the transnational nature of human trafficking and other crimes related to armed conflict, only a comprehensive approach could succeed in tackling them.  It must include assistance for victims and address the situation’s root causes.  The Libya situation constituted a grave and protracted crisis spawned by the 2011 intervention in the country’s internal issues, and the result was persistent political factionalism.  Efforts to counter criminal activity related to migration and to deliver assistance to victims must be supported.  Stressing the need for wide‑ranging dialogue under the auspices of the United Nations, he said only lasting peace could lead to lasting alleviation of the refugee and migrant issue.  There had been intimations about the need for an urgent intervention, but those who relished taking on such issues independently and in breach of State sovereignty would only exacerbate the already difficult situation that had emerged in Libya, he warned.  Against such a backdrop, it would be highly valuable to shore up cooperation with the African Union, he emphasized.

YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine) said the situation in Libya had a direct impact on the stability of neighbouring States, the Sahel and the Mediterranean.  Because of the current crisis, the latter region was facing a number of challenges, including terrorist threats and irregular migration flows.  He strongly condemned the human rights violations taking place in Libyan detention centres where African migrants were being systematically abused and harassed, describing reports of slave auctions as shocking and horrifying.  He appealed to all competent authorities in the country to investigate such activities and to hold those responsible accountable, while encouraging the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate such atrocities.  Nevertheless, the migrant situation in Libya was among many factors contributing to ongoing instability, as criminal networks exploited the lack of political progress and the resulting security vacuum.  Arbitrary detention, torture, kidnappings, unlawful killings, trafficking in persons, as well as arms and drug smuggling, had all become a daily reality, he said, stressing that only a comprehensive approach to the current conflict’s root cause could alleviate the suffering of Libya’s people.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), associating himself with the African Union, agreed that practices relating to human enslavement must be stamped out, expressing support for the regional bloc’s appeal for an investigation to identify those responsible and hold them accountable.  According to data compiled by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and IOM, more than 40 million people had been subjected to some form of modern slavery in 2016, and one in four of them had been children, he noted.  Investigations by Libya’s Government were currently under way to identify those responsible for such acts, which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, in which case the role of the International Criminal Court must be recognized.  It was necessary to ensure that perpetrators of such crimes were prosecuted, he said, describing trafficking as a “parasitic” crime that exploited inaction.  It was also important to recall that the Libya crisis and its broader fallout were the direct result of meddling in the country’s internal affairs — in violation of international law — which had left millions of victims.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), Council President for November, spoke in his national capacity, saying his country had facilitated meetings in Tripoli on the situation with the aim of providing the highest standards of humanitarian assistance and respect for human rights.  Human mobility and the situation in Libya remained at the centre of Italy’s actions at the United Nations and of its Council Presidency, he said, recalling that earlier in the month, his delegation had organized an open debate on trafficking as well as a meeting dedicated to the political situation in Libya.  As such, the Council had unanimously adopted resolution 2388 (2017), which underscored that trafficking and the smuggling of persons in the Sahel region were further exacerbating conflict and instability.  That text provided a legal basis for a victim‑centred approach and highlighted that human trafficking entailed widespread and grave human rights abuses.  Recent reports showing migrants sold as slaves were sickening, he said, condemning such actions.  Italy welcomed remarks by the Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union on the bloc’s initiative to address the plight of African migrants in Libya.  Emphasizing that migration flows should not be managed at the expense of human rights, he said Italy’s approach had always combined solidarity and security.  The solution to the Libya crisis must be political, he stressed, calling upon members to help the country on its path to security and stability.

ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya) condemned any sale of migrants by whomever was committing such crimes, pledging that if the reports proved true, the perpetrators would not be allowed impunity.  Libyan laws criminalized trafficking in persons and slavery, he said, pointing out that such practices also violated basic Libyan values.  The country was going through a crisis of instability and could not bear the full burden of migrant flows, a problem that it had not created.  The issue must be addressed in origin and destination countries, he said, arguing that without problems in those countries and international trafficking networks, the problem would not exist in Libya.  Similarly, simply forcing migrants leaving Libya back to the country would exacerbate both their own situation and that of the country, he said, adding that resettling them would further destabilize Libya.  Destination countries must not shirk their responsibilities, he stressed.

Libya, meanwhile, was the victim of a large‑scale media campaign of defamation following the release of the slave‑trading images, he continued.  Insisting that his country was not racist, he said it had absorbed many foreign workers and would absorb more when stability was restored and reconstruction began.  The international community must address the problem through an effective approach dealing with root causes instead of contributing to the further defamation of Libya.  Further support for efforts to unify the country and rebuild its institutions was also essential.  Part of the solution would also entail repatriation to origin countries and greater migration opportunities.  With hundreds of thousands of people transiting through Libya during a very difficult time in its history, the country should not be held responsible for international problems it had not caused, he emphasized, while expressing appreciation for the work of UNHCR and welcoming the cooperation between that agency and IOM.