Libya is a significant transit country for irregular migration to Europe and is therefore the site of much effort by external policy makers, notably the European Union. External actors have been unable to formalize workable agreements with Libyan authorities to address or stop onward migration to Europe. Instead, they have been forced to develop arrangements with Libya’s neighboring countries to work around this impasse. This article examines the rhetoric behind efforts by individual European countries and the European Union to implement externally produced migration policies. From crisis narratives to invoking a humanitarian imperative to “save lives,” it is argued that these tropes justify various, at times competing, agendas. This results in almost no tangible improvement to the situation of irregular migrants or the capacity of authorities to deal with irregular migration, with one exception being that of the Libyan coast guard.
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