Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Libya's "Inhuman" Migrant Detention Camps

Chaos-ridden Libya has long been a major transit hub for people trying to reach Europe. Many have fallen prey to serious abuse in the country at the hands of traffickers and others. The EU policy of helping Libyan authorities intercept people trying to cross the Mediterranean and return them to prisons is “inhuman”

“The suffering of migrants detained in Libya is an outrage to the conscience of humanity,” said the UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. “The European Union’s policy of assisting the Libyan coastguard to intercept and return migrants in the Mediterranean is inhuman.” Hussein said “the detention system for migrants in Libya is broken beyond repair. The international community cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the unimaginable horrors endured by migrants in Libya, and pretend that the situation can be remedied only by improving conditions in detention.”

 Hussein said UN staff members had visited four DCIM facilities earlier this month and were shocked by what they saw. “There were thousands of emaciated and traumatised men, women and children piled on top of each other, locked up in hangars with no access to the most basic necessities, and stripped of their human dignity,” he said.

People including children described horrific beatings by guards at detention centres, while many women said they faced rape and other sexual violence at the hands of smugglers and guards. One woman told UN staff she was gang-raped by three men, including a DCIM guard, while another woman said four armed men had gang-raped her during her journey, when she was pregnant. “I bled profusely, and I think I lost the baby. I haven’t seen a doctor yet,” she said.

“We cannot be a silent witness to modern-day slavery, rape and other sexual violence, and unlawful killings, in the name of managing migration and preventing desperate and traumatised people from reaching Europe’s shores.” Hussein said. “The increasing interventions of the EU and its member states have done nothing so far to reduce the level of abuses suffered by migrants,” Hussein said, adding that instead, there appeared to be a “fast deterioration in their situation in Libya”.


 The UN human rights office criticised European countries for ignoring warnings that the deal with Libya could condemn more people to detention, exposing them to torture, rape, forced labour and extortion.
According to Libya’s department of combating illegal migration (DCIM), 19,900 people were being held in facilities under its control in early November, up from about 7,000 in mid-September. The increase came after authorities detained thousands of people previously held by smugglers in Libya’s trafficking hub Sabratha, west of Tripoli.

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