BERLIN -- Germany said Wednesday that its military no longer will provide training to Libya’s coast guard because of concerns about their treatment of migrants.
The announcement came as the German government agreed to extend for a year its participation in the European Union naval mission, known as Operation Irini, which monitors an arms embargo against Libya.
“The German government cannot currently justify the training of the Libyan coast guard by German soldiers in view of the repeated unacceptable behavior by individual units of the Libyan coast guard toward refugees and migrants, and also toward non-governmental organizations,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Andrea Sasse said.
In recent years, there have been regular allegations of Libyan coast guards mistreating migrants who are caught trying to reach Europe by boat.
“We have information that in at least two cases, the coast guard acted in a completely unacceptable and illegal manner,” Sasse said.
“This concerns incidents in July 2021,” she added, without elaborating.
A confidential report by the head of Operation Irini, obtained earlier this year by The Associated Press, acknowledged “excessive use of force” by Libyan authorities but called for European training programs to continue.
The training started seven years ago under Operation Sophia as large numbers of migrants tried to reach the EU via Libya — an influx the bloc wanted to stop. When the focus shifted to arms control and the mission was replaced with Operation Irini in 2020, the program was put on hold pending approval by Libya.
Asked whether Germany believes the task of carrying out the rescue of migrants in unseaworthy boats should remain Libya's responsibility, Sasse declined comment.
Several non-governmental organizations are involved in the rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, including the Germany-based group Sea-Eye. The group took in 32 migrants who were rescued off Libya this week by the Ukrainian captain of a German container ship.
Operation Irini itself has been criticized for not doing enough to save migrants at sea despite EU vessels conducting extensive monitoring in the area, including with German maritime surveillance aircraft.
Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said that under the extended naval mandate, which needs to be approved by parliament, German personnel will continue to monitor the arms embargo and prevent the illegal export of oil from Libya.
“And it should help to fight the business model of people-trafficking networks,” he said, without elaborating.
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