By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 13 May 2015:
Amnesty International has published a new . . .[restrict]report detailing the horrors migrants and refugees face in an increasingly lawless Libya. The report is based on numerous interviews with refugees and includes stories of personal accounts of abuse and fear.
Horrific conditions in Libya are leading an increasing number of migrants and refugees to attempt the dangerous Mediterranean crossing in order to reach Europe’s shores, reported Amnesty. The rise of lawlessness has “exacerbated the risks they face, leading even established communities of migrants who have been living and working in Libya for years to flee to Europe by boat,” said the group.
According to Amnesty, migrants face widespread torture, attacks, abduction and theft. They are abused and taken advantage of by smugglers and criminal gangs alike. Often their passports are stolen or confiscated, leaving them at the mercy of smugglers.
At times, they are held “effectively as slaves—forced to work without pay”. Other times, they are abducted and held in dire conditions until their families pay a ransom.
Women, unaccompanied children and Christians are at particular risk, said the group. Women are often subjected to rape and held as sex slaves.
“Women abducted along the smuggling route who are unable to pay the ransom are at times coerced into sex in exchange for being released or being allowed to continue their journey.”
Amnesty also referenced the recent alleged Islamic State executions of Egyptian and Ethiopian Christians to highlight the threat against Christian migrants. The report recounted the story of one Nigerian migrant who alleges he was kidnapped by a criminal gang in Zuwara because they saw he was carrying a Bible.
With Tunisia and Egypt closing its borders to migrants, those who wish to flee Libya are often left with no other feasible route but to put themselves in the hands of smugglers and risk the dangerous Mediterranean crossing.
The EU, in response to the drowning of hundreds of migrants last month, has announced plans to change its policies regarding migrant boat crossings on the Mediterranean, including plans to increase search and rescue operations.
“The commitment made by EU leaders to deploy more resources for search and rescue is a welcome step, but more people will continue to drown in the Mediterranean Sea unless rescue vessels are delivered promptly, deployed in areas where they are needed most – where most calls for help come from – and remain available for as long as high numbers of refugees and migrants continue to depart from Libya,” said Amnesty International Director for the Middle East and North Africa Philip Luther.
Amnesty expressed concerns about the EU’s announced plans to destroy migrant vessels.
“Introducing measures to tackle smugglers without providing safe alternative routes out for the people desperate to flee conflict in Libya, will not resolve the plight of migrants and refugees,” stated Luther.
Those who are caught by the Libyan Coast Guard are usually detained at detention centres in Libya. Amnesty expressed concern about the conditions the migrants face in such centres.
Abuses in detention centres are rampant, said Amnesty. The group heard from numerous migrants about being beaten, raped and nearly starved while in indefinite detention in the centres.
“European leaders must ensure that refugees and migrants fleeing conflict and human rights abuses are never pushed back to Libya,” said Luther.
Amnesty called wealthy countries to increase the number of resettlement places for migrants fleeing Libya and on Libya’s neighbouring countries to offer sanctuary.
The group also called on the Libyan state to change its own policies of systematic detention of refugees and migrants “based solely on their immigration status” and to improve the detention centres, holding detainees for the shortest time possible.