France reverses boat donation to Libya


France has decided not to supply six Sillinger patrol boats to Libya to counter illegal migration after a challenge by eight non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which have criticised Libya’s treatment of migrants.

The donation was first announced in February this year after a meeting between French armed forces minister Florence Parly and Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj. The 12 metre long semi-rigid boats were to be acquired from France’s Sillinger and delivered later this year when they would enhance maritime security and combat illegal migration in the North African country.

However, on 2 December, the French defence ministry told the Paris Administrative Court of Appeal that the boats would not be transferred to Libya after the NGO challenge.

Sillinger previously supplied more than 50 boats from 3.8 to 12 metres in length to Libya under a 2013 contract, but the new boats were to be donated by France. They were to be unarmed and used by the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept illegal immigrants.

The NGOs that opposed the transfer include Médecins Sans Frontières, Cimade, GISTI and Amnesty International, which brought their case before the Paris Administrative Court. The NGOs said apprehended migrants are put in detention camps where human rights violations are regularly recorded.

The Paris Administrative Court said the boat transfer was part of France’s foreign relations conduct and in May rejected the request to suspend the boats’ delivery. This was appealed and the defence ministry late last month then withdrew its decision to donate the vessels to Libya.

Approximately 40 000 refugees and asylum seekers live outside detention centres in urban areas in Libya, according to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).