Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Libyan Hell

“I gave my birth to my baby in a toilet – I lost her and now I’m dying as well,” says a woman weeping as she lies on a dirty floor, unable to walk after months without medical treatment. She is one of thousands of women and children held indefinitely in Libya’s countless detention centres, caught in a lucrative trade between militias and people smugglers profiting from the worst refugee crisis the world has ever seen.
Near Tripoli, the Fallah detention centre holds almost 900 men. When the Libyan guards’ backs are turned, they tell film-makers how they were “beaten like animals” and called “slaves” by their captors. Those centres are controlled by the UN-backed Libyan government, but many more are under the control of the numerous militias and armed groups operating in the country that have forced migrants from across Africa into work camps and brothels. Britain and other European countries are increasing cooperation with Libya to slow the crossings but the war-torn country’s fledgling Government of National Accord (GNA) have been powerless to stop warring militias profiting from exploiting desperate refugees. The documentary’s director, Marta Shaw, said it would be tantamount to “signing a death sentence” to force refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean back to Libya. Outsourcing the policing of our borders to Libya isn’t the solution,” she added.
The UK is helping train the Libyan coastguard, which is being given increasing responsibility for “rescue” missions, but new footage to be broadcast by Sky shows its staff beating and whipping refugees in a boat. Ross Kemp, the former EastEnders actor said the coastguard showed little concern as they attacked refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, having already been accused of causing at least 25 people to drown in the panic caused by a similar attack. “They seemed to take a bit too much pleasure in the beating,” he told The Independent. They left them for hours in the sun without water and food, then they took them to detention centres, splitting up families. If you’re going to do that you also have a responsibility to ensure they’re treated as human beings, and they’re not. Turning them back isn’t going to stop them coming, it’s inhuman.”
Refugees forced back to land by Libyan authorities are taken to detention centres spread along the country’s coast – some controlled by the government and others by powerful militias that have carved the country up since the UK-backed ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
They are held for months, before being moved or sold on to smugglers to attempt the treacherous crossing once more. Some are said to be taken to Libya’s southern border, although rumours of people being abandoned and left to die in the desert abound.
Kemp said he feared Europe was adopting an “out of sight, out of mind approach” to the refugee crisis as it enters its third year. “These people are being treated like commodities,” he added. “Their own countries don’t want them, Libya certainly doesn’t want them and Europe doesn’t want them – so what happens to them?”


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