Libyan Refugees are Subjected Systematic Violations by Ruling Authorities and European Complicity

Refugees and migrants are almost constantly exposed to human rights abuses by Libyan officials and security forces, and by armed groups and criminal gangs, who often work in close cooperation for their mutual financial benefit.

They suffer torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention in deplorable conditions, extortion, forced labor and murder in a country where there is no law, and in which refugees and migrants have become a resource that is exploited, and a commodity around which an entire industry has developed.

White slave traders offered refugees for sale which was documented in media and human rights groups in Europe.

Refugees and migrants in Libya are subjected to massive violations of their human rights, in a country whose institutions have increasingly collapsed over the years due to armed conflict and political division. The situation of refugees and migrants in Libya has been extensively documented by collecting hundreds of testimonies from people who described disturbing details of what they experienced or witnessed. The International Organization for Migration estimated the number of migrants in Libya at more than half a million refugees.

Officials responsible for managing and guarding detention centers are often directly involved in torturing and ill-treating refugees and migrants, with the aim of obtaining ransom from them or their families, in exchange for their release from arbitrary indefinite detention.

Refugees and migrants who were held in DCIM centers described how they were held in undignified conditions, in poorly equipped and overcrowded facilities.

 They spoke of being deprived of food and water, and of being subjected to indecent treatment, including being stripped for any cash.

Some described how they were forced to contact their families while being tortured by guards to coerce their families to pay money for their release. Others said they were given an opportunity to speak to a mediator who would pay DCIM officials to release them, and hand them over to smugglers to leave by sea as soon as the “debt” was paid.

Usually, upon release from detention, a refugee or immigrant is completely empty-handed and does not possess any personal belongings, including identification documents or a passport, which puts him at risk of immediate arrest or re-captivity.

European Union member states have concluded a series of cooperation agreements with the Libyan authorities responsible for grave human rights violations, in particular with the Libyan Coast Guard and the Anti-Illegal Migration Service at the Ministry of the Interior, with the aim of increasing capacity to deal with smugglers, and search and rescue operations to prevent illegal departure. This policy has paid off, as the number of arrivals to Italy decreased by more than 80%, but at the expense of torturing these refugees and sometimes leaving them at sea or selling them to gangs that trade in refugees, and the number of deaths among migrants increased significantly.

Our organization believes that the criminalization of illegal entry, stay and departure, in the absence of any legislation or practical greeting structure to protect asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking, has resulted in mass and indefinite arbitrary detention becoming the dominant system of immigration management in the country, and that the corrupt practices are the way to commit horrific abuses in places of detention, where refugees and migrants are at the mercy of authorities, militias and armed groups, who often work visibly with smugglers to make money.

The complete absence of any judicial oversight of detention procedures, and the near-absolute impunity enjoyed by public officials, facilitated the institutionalization of torture and other ill-treatment in these detention centres.

We stress the need to impose sanctions on these institutions and punish those responsible for them, and not to deal with them to stop these procedures.

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