When the European Union started funneling millions of euros into Libya to slow the tide of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, the money came with EU promises to improve detention centers notorious for abuse and fight human trafficking. The EU has sent more than 327.9 million euros to Libya, with an additional 41 million approved in early December, largely channeled through U.N. agencies.
That hasn’t happened. Instead, the misery of migrants in Libya has spawned a thriving and highly lucrative web of dubious businesses. In Libya, a country without a functioning government, huge sums of European money have been diverted to intertwined networks of militiamen, traffickers and coast guard members who exploit migrants. In some cases, U.N. officials knew militia networks were getting the money.
The militias torture, extort and otherwise abuse migrants for ransoms in detention centers under the nose of the U.N., often in compounds that receive millions in European money, the AP investigation showed. Many migrants also simply disappear from detention centers, sold to traffickers or to other centers. The same militias conspire with some members of Libyan coast guard units. The coast guard gets training and equipment from Europe to keep migrants away from its shores. But coast guard members return some migrants to the detention centers under deals with militias and receive bribes to let others pass en route to Europe.
The militias involved in abuse and trafficking also skim off European funds given through the U.N. to feed and otherwise help migrants, who go hungry. For example, millions of euros in U.N. food contracts were under negotiation with a company controlled by a militia leader, even as other U.N. teams raised alarms about starvation in his detention centers.