British aid causing 'unintended harm' to fleeing Libyans, says watchdog

Posted On: 
10th March 2017

Britain is inadvertently harming Libyan migrants seeking refuge in Europe through its aid programme, an independent watchdog has said.

Migrants from Libya attempt to cross the sea on a boat
Credit: 
PA Images

The UK spends around £9m on aid in the war-torn country, much of which goes on training the Libyan coastguard, but has been urged to do more to avoid the “unintended harm” which results caused by the policy.

In a report out today, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) say those fleeing via the Mediterranean - who are then captured at sea by the coastguard and held at detention camps indefinitely - are at greater risk of extortion and abuse.

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They add that individuals who attempt the perilous crossing, in a land which is home to up to one million migrants and refugees, are then less likely to be granted asylum.

Dr Alison Evans, ICAI’s chief commissioner who led the review, said: “Global migration is increasingly an important issue for UK aid, but in addressing this the government faces a complex and rapidly changing context, and a range of difficulties.

She added: We are also concerned about the risk of unintended harm to vulnerable migrants, particularly in difficult operating contexts such as Libya, and we have urged the government to do more to identify and manage these risks.

“UK aid’s focus on irregular migration is at its early stages, but at the moment our review found it is some distance from making a measurable impact in the central Mediterranean.”

A Government spokesman said: "Cross-government efforts are tackling the root causes of migration by building opportunity and stability for people in their home regions so they don't need to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.

"We're also getting help to vulnerable migrants who have already started their treacherous journey."