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EU continues training partners despite migrant abuses

BRUSSELS (AP) – A confidential European Union (EU) military report calls for continuing a controversial EU programme to train and equip Libya’s coast guard and navy despite growing concerns about their treatment of migrants, a mounting death toll at sea, and the continued lack of any central authority in the North African nation.

The report, circulated to EU officials this month and obtained by The Associated Press (AP), offers a rare look at Europe’s determination to support Libya in the interception and return of tens of thousands of men, women and children to Libya, where they face insufferable abuse.

Compiled by Italian navy Rear Admiral Stefano Turchetto, head of the EU arms embargo surveillance mission, or Operation Irini, the report acknowledges the “excessive use of force” by Libyan authorities, adding that EU training is “no longer fully followed”.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants hoping to reach Europe have made their way through Libya, where a lucrative trafficking and smuggling business has flourished in a country without a functioning government, fragmented for years between rival administrations in the east and west, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.

The EU report acknowledges “the political stalemate” in Libya has hindered Europe’s training programme, noting that the country’s internal divisions make it difficult to obtain political support for enforcing “proper behavioral standards … compliant with human rights, especially when dealing with irregular migrants.”

The European Commission and the EU’s External Action Service – the equivalent of the 27-nation bloc’s foreign office – declined to comment on the report. But spokesman Peter Stano confirmed the EU is determined to train coast guard personnel and bolster Libya’s capacity to manage a massive search-and-rescue area of the Mediterranean.

The EU training program “remains firm on the table to increase the capacity of the Libyan authorities to save lives at sea,” Stano said.

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