Statement delivered by Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations and President of the Security Council, at the Security Council briefing on the situation of migrants in Libya —
I thank the briefers for their remarks and also for the work carried out by UNHCR and IOM on the ground, assisting all those in need of international protection.
We are committed to helping improve the appalling conditions of refugee and migrant centers, including through the launch of new calls for NGO projects, and finding avenues for legal migration and repatriation. Italy as long emphasized the crucial role for the United Nations on the ground and has from the start advocated and worked for a stronger presence of UNHCR and IOM in Libya.
We therefore welcome the important progress achieved both by UNHCR and IOM on this crucial matter. Italy is pleased that the Italian efforts, also through the engagement of the Italian Embassy in Tripoli, are able to facilitate UNHCR activities in Libya towards migrants, vulnerable categories and then international protection and in defining the terms of its presence and its engagement in the country. To this end meetings facilitated by the Italian Embassy were held in Tripoli involving local authorities and UNHCR. The procedures for the resettlement of migrants and vulnerable categories can be accelerated in cooperation with dedicated offices in Tripoli run by local Authorities, with the aim to provide higher standards of humanitarian assistance and respect of human rights.
Human mobility, exploitation and abuses against migrants and the situation in Libya and the Mediterranean are at the center of Italy’s action at the UN as well as of our Presidency of this Council. One week ago we organized an Open Debate on “trafficking of persons in conflict situations”; our Foreign Minister, Angelino Alfano, chaired a briefing on security challenges in the Mediterranean on November 17 and a meeting dedicated to the political situation in Libya was held the day before.
As a member of the Security Council, Italy’s action on this issue has been consistent, culminating under our Presidency with the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2388 co-sponsored by 56 Countries at the abovementioned open debate. The Resolution underscores, inter alia, that the challenges posed by trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants in the Sahel region and in Libya are further exacerbating instability and conflict. It calls for a renewed collective and coordinated effort and provides a legal basis for a strengthened victim-centered, gender and child sensitive approach in addressing the needs of the victims, especially highlighting that human trafficking entails, as shown by the situation in Libya, widespread and grave abuses of human rights, including heinous forms of exploitation and slavery.
Recent reports showing migrants in Libya reportedly being sold as slaves are sickening. Slavery must have no place in today’s world. These actions are among the most outrageous abuses of human rights and may amount to crimes against humanity. We condemn them in the strongest terms. Italy therefore welcomes the statements by the Government of National Accord of Libya condemning these inhumane practices and launching an investigation into this abhorrent episode to bring the perpetrators to justice. We also welcome the remarks made in front of this Council last week by the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, on the initiative taken by the African Union to address the plight of African migrants in Libya. We also recall the words of Prosecutor Bensouda of the ICC in this Council, under Italian Presidency, just three weeks ago.
We must not forget that the issue of large numbers of people being trafficked through Libya dates way before the recent spotlight by international media. Over the past years Italy has rescued and welcomed over half a million migrants and refugees who have tried to reach Europe across the Mediterranean. At the same time we spared no effort in raising awareness on the issue at the European level first and then globally.
As mentioned in this Chamber by Foreign Minister Alfano in the meeting on Libya, the recent decline of migration flows across the Mediterranean is encouraging because it reduces the number of people undertaking a dangerous journey, which has cost so many innocent lives over the past years. But a better management of migration flows must not happen at the expense of human rights. Migrants should be treated with humanity and dignity and their rights should be fully respected. This is the approach that Italy has taken since the beginning of this crisis, by combining solidarity and security.
Italy is mindful that a sustainable solution to this issue stems from the strengthening of Libyan state institutions as well as local municipalities and it is carrying out several concrete initiatives to this end. We recall the importance to assist Libya, as indicated by several Security Council resolutions, under the coordination of the Presidency Council, in building needed capacity including to secure its borders and to prevent, investigate and prosecute acts of smuggling of migrants and human trafficking. This challenge is transnational in nature and therefore Libya cannot be left alone in dealing with it.
We believe that the protection of vulnerable groups, including migrants, must be at the center of UNSML humanitarian activities. We also express support to countries in the region affected by the smuggling of migrants and emphasize Italy’s initiative to strengthen an effective multidimensional response with states of origin, of transit and destination. Instability in the Sahel is also been exploited by traffickers of human beings. We need to address this common challenges in the spirit of international solidarity and share responsibility to tackle root causes and prevent vulnerable people from being exploited by migrants smugglers and human traffickers.
Ultimately, the solution to this problem is a political solution to the Libyan crisis, accompanying the country in a path towards stabilization and national reconciliation through an inclusive dialogue. Italy reaffirms its full support to the UN mediation in this respect, as reiterated by Prime Minister Gentiloni in its meeting with SRSG Salame’, two days ago in Tunis.
Finally, we support the UK proposal for a formal product, it would be an important value added to advance the engagement of the Security Council on this issue and a further follow-up to the initiative launched by the Italian Presidency during this month. I would like to thank France for calling this meeting in cooperation with the Italian Presidency.