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Libya lashes out at the EU's Return Directive

Libya is not just refusing to take part in Frontex's Mediterranean patrol missions, but is also opposing a recently-enacted EU law aimed at harmonising the way member states should treat illegal immigrants.

The Return Directive, sanctioned by the European Parliament last month, sets minimum standards on how to deal with illegal immigrants. Its main provision states that they cannot be detained for more than 18 months and that they should be returned to their country of origin.

Libya has, however, threatened to take measures against the EU if the new law is applied.

In a communiqué, it called on the Union to amend the new rules which it claims mean African migrants are treated as criminals.

"Africa will not accept any law based on repression and which treats African migrants, including children and people with disabilities, as criminals," Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel-Rahman Shalgam said.

"If they (EU) continue to maintain its stance, Libya will consult other members of the African Union to study this law and its consequences and takes a united stance on this decision."

The Libyan foreign minister also said that no country is authorised to take unilateral decisions affecting the destiny of another state.

Earlier in the week, Frontex criticised Libya over its refusal, for the third year in a row, to take part in surveillance missions against illegal immigration in the Mediterranean. Frontex said these missions could not be effective as long as Libya failed to cooperate.

The Frontex-led mission does not have permission to enter Libya's territorial waters or to turn back boatloads of illegal immigrants leaving from Libyan ports.

"The Libyans are just refusing to cooperate and told us straight and plain that this is not their problem. They refuse to take people back claiming that these are not Libyan nationals but Africans from the Horn of Africa who are using Libya to flee to Europe," EU sources told The Sunday Times.

Meanwhile, Frontex is now preparing to make its missions permanent as from next year.

Following a parliamentary question by MEP Simon Busuttil, EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot said the Commission would be supporting an increase in the Frontex budget to enable permanent patrols.

"The Commission supports more cooperation between its member states to control the EU's external borders and this could be done better by joint operations of permanent nature at specific high-risk areas," he said.

Mr Barrot told Dr Busuttil that the Commission was proposing an allocation of €75 million to Frontex for 2009, an increase of €42 million on 2006.

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