According to United Nations officials, at least six detainees in the Libyan overcrowded facility were shot dead last Saturday in October 10, 2021 in a most recent migrant tragedy. Furthermore, tens of people who sustained serious injuries required immediate medical attention for their life-threatening injuries the following day. The wounded migrants and refugees are among thousands the Libyan authorities detained a week ago in an unprecedented crackdown, doubling the total number of migrants and refugees in detention to about 10,000 people in a week, including 511 women and 60 children, for crimes amounting to humanitarian crimes, according to international investigators.
The UNHCR representative at the United Nations reported that human rights violations and overcrowding led to chaos and indiscriminate shooting. For its part, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) called on the authorities to stop using excessive force against migrants and to resume trips to allow them to leave Libya.
However, the use of excessive force and violence, often resulting in death, is common in Libyan detention centers, which include approximately 10,000 men, women and children detained in poor conditions.
The Director of UNHCR’s Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa expressed growing concerns about the dire humanitarian situation of asylum -seekers and refugees in Libya calling for an end to the detention of asylum-seekers and for the urgent resumption of humanitarian flights.
Human rights abuse by Libyan coast guards and complicity with European states
Human Rights reports have also revealed that a number of migrant women detained in Libyan concentration camps have been subjected to horrific sexual violence by guards and forced to have sex in exchange for clean water and food.
Reports indicate, as well, that conditions in the camps have deteriorated, although they have recently been placed under the control of the Libyan Interior’s Ministry. The Coast Guard has worked with the Italian government to return migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean and transported to Libya between 2020 and 2021.
Violations committed over a decade against refugees and migrants continued unabated in Libyan detention centers during the first six months of 2020, despite repeated promises to address them. Returnees are immediately taken into arbitrary detention, where they are systematically subjected to torture, sexual violence, forced labor and other forms of exploitation, with total impunity for the perpetrators. A number of migrants confirmed that guards raped women and subjected them to sexual violence, including forced sex for food or freedom.
Migrants and asylum-seekers have confirmed several violations while in detention in various prisons in Libya, including beatings, piling up, poor conditions, denial of access to lawyers and failure to inform them of their anticipated deportation. Witnesses said that physical abuse at the hands of guards resulted in the death of the victim in some cases.
However, many of the violations appear to be due to the fact that the victims are foreigners. Sub-Saharan Africans lack the support of their Governments, and many Libyans regard them as undesirable foreigners, making them particularly vulnerable to abuse.
“Med SOS” Organization regretted the continued complicity of European States, which continue to shamefully empower the Libyan Coast Guard, assist it in the capture of persons at sea and forcibly return them to hell detention in Libya, despite their full knowledge of the horrors to which they will be subjected. Italy and the European Union have for years funded and trained the Libyan coast guards to prevent smugglers from transporting migrants and refugees in boats across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations that regularly operate in the Mediterranean have consistently denounced European policies on the forced return of migrants to Libya, where they are detained under harsh and difficult conditions.
Since the beginning of 2021, 866 migrants have died in Mediterranean waters while attempting to reach Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration. “Med SOS” Organization asserts that it has rescued more than 30 thousand people since February 2016, the most recent of which was the rescue of 369 migrants last July’s month.
Calls by Human rights Organizations for the protection of asylum seekers and refugees in Libya
The United Nations had criticized Libya and the European Union, calling for reforms in search and rescue rules, stressing that current practices denied migrants their rights and violated their dignity if they were not robbed of their lives.
The forcible return of refugees is a violation of Libyan and international law. The 1969 Libyan Constitutional Declaration provides that “extradition of political refugees shall be prohibited.” Law No. 20 of 1991 on the promotion of freedom, states that Libya is “a haven for the oppressed and freedom fighters”. Both the Convention against Torture and the African Refugee Convention prevent Libya from sending individuals to countries where they face a serious risk of persecution or torture. To ensure that those obligations were fulfilled, Libya must clarify whether there were refugees among the migrants it returned or expelled.