A network of centers run by Libya’s Department for Combating Illegal Immigration, or DCIM, is supported by the European Union as a bulwark against mainly African migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
Human rights groups and U.N. agencies say abuse also takes place in the official DCIM-run facilities.
“Sexual violence and exploitation are rife in several detention centers (for migrants) across the country,” said Tarik Lamloum, a Libyan activist working with the Belaady Organization for Human Rights.
The U.N. refugee agency has documented hundreds of cases of women raped while in either DCIM detention or traffickers’ prisons, with some even being impregnated by guards and giving birth during detention, said Vincent Cochetel, the agency’s special envoy for the Central Mediterranean.
At least two of the girls attempted to kill themselves in late May following alleged beatings and attempted rapes, according to local rights group Libyan Crime Watch and U.N. agencies.
When Libyan security forces rescued her earlier this year, the young Somali woman thought it would be the end of her suffering. For more than two years, she had been imprisoned and sexually abused by human traffickers notorious for extorting, torturing and assaulting migrants like her trying to reach Europe. Instead, the 17-year-old said, the sexual assaults against her have continued, only now by guards atthe Shara al-Zawiya detention center, the government-run center in the Libyan capital Tripoli where they are being kept.
“While it is not the first time I suffer from sexual attacks, this is more painful as it was by the people who should protect us,” the 17-year-old said, speaking to The Associated Press by a smuggled mobile phone. “You have to offer something in return to go to the bathroom, to call family or to avoid beating,” she said. “It’s like we are being held by traffickers.”
Nearly 13,000 men, women and children have been intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard and returned to Libyan shores from the start of the year up to June 12, a record number. Most are then placed in DCIM-run centers. At some of the 29 DCIM-run centers around the country, rights groups have documented a lack of basic hygiene, health care, food and water as well as beatings and torture. DCIM receives support, supplies and training, including on human rights, through the EU’s 4.9 billion-euro Trust Fund for Africa.
“The guns are silent, a cease-fire is in place ... but human rights violations are continuing unabated,” said Suki Nagra, representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Libya.