New Report: Aerial collaboration between the EU and Libya facilitates mass interceptions of migrants

Alliance of NGOs and activists release an exclusive report documenting how aerial collaboration between the EU and Libya facilitates mass interceptions of migrants in the Central Mediterranean Sea.

Alarm Phone, borderline-europe, Mediterranea and Sea-Watch have directly witnessed and documented illegal push- and pull-backs to Libya coordinated by European authorities, such as Frontex and EUNAVFOR Med, and implemented by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, an EU-funded and trained group of militias with a track record of blatant human rights violations and collaboration with people smugglers.

Today, we are releasing our report “Remote control: the EU-Libya collaboration in mass interceptions of migrants in the Central Mediterranean” that outlines and describes actions taken by EU aerial surveillance units in mass interceptions off the coast of Libya. The report contains the reconstruction of three specific search and rescue (SAR) events which ended in interceptions and returns to Libya by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard. It provides the legal background of the violations incurred and an analysis of how the collaboration between the EU and the so-called Libyan Coast Guard works operationally, with a focus on aerial coordination. The reconstructions are based on first-hand observations at sea, and include overheard radio communications between different actors, such as European authorities and their Libyan proxies as well as calls for help from people in distress at sea.

The EU is responsible for remote controlling push-backs to Libya through aerial surveillance and coordination.

“EU aerial assets are deployed to spot migrant boats from the air and to then guide the so-called Libyan Coast Guard to the location of escaping boats. This aerial surveillance has led to the capture of tens of thousands of people and their return to the Libyan war zone in operations that amount to nothing less than state-run human trafficking.” says Bérénice Gaudin from the organisation Sea-Watch. “Despite the European Union and its Member States’ assumption that by remotely controlling distress cases and interceptions by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard – from the air, or by avoiding direct contact with migrants – they might avoid responsibility for the rights violations these practices entail, this report proves the contrary.” adds Lucia Gennari from the organisation Mediterranea – Saving Humans. “The policy of mass pull-backs to the Libyan war zone is a fully-fledged European policy, for which the EU and its Member States bear direct responsibility.” alerts Kiri Santer from the Alarm Phone.

EU authorities have further instrumentalized the COVID-19 crisis to normalise already existing practices of non-assistance at sea and continue to violate the non-refoulement principle at sea. Under no circumstances can the COVID-19 pandemic justify the push- and pull-back of fleeing migrants to Libya.

Based on the unlawful practices evidenced in this report, the below listed NGOs and networks jointly call for:

  • The immediate revocation of the Libyan Search and Rescue Region (SRR).
  • An end to collaborations between EU institutions and Member States with Libyan authorities, including the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, due to their track record of human rights violations and overlapping relations with civil war actors and smugglers networks.
  • An end to EU aerial surveillance facilitating pull-backs conducted by Libyan militias.
  • A stop to European Rescue Coordination Centers’ violation of international conventions by ignoring distress calls, delaying rescues, and coordinating pull- and push-backs to Libya.
  • The respect of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, and in particular the non-refoulement principle, also during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A commitment to human rights principles in SAR operations, including those taking place in the disputed Libyan Search and Rescue Region.
  • The establishment of safe and legal routes for flight, ensuring the freedom of movement to all as a fundamental right.

The report will be available for download on the website from 18:00 CEST onwards. 


Public event

We cordially invite you to our launch event this evening in which we will present the key findings of our exclusive report “Remote control”. We will broadcast in the frame of ‘United We Talk’ from Alex Berlin, you are invited to follow the live-stream here from 18:00 CEST onwards:



Mediterranea – Saving Humans
Lucia Gennari (IT, EN)

Jelka Kretzschmar (ENG, GER)

Alarm Phone
Kiri Santer (ENG, FR)

Frauke Werner (ENG, GER)