Situation of migrants in Libya

Libya is major gateway for African and a lot of Arab migrants hoping to reach Europe but they face unimaginable horrors in the country. More than 11,500 people have died on the Mediterranean while attempting to reach Europe from Africa since 2016.

At least 1,146 people died at sea while trying to reach Europe in the first half of 2021, more than double the number recorded in the same period last year, according to the International Organization for Migration. This increase in deaths comes at a time when the Libyan Coast Guard has frequently intercepted migrant boats off the coast of North Africa. The European Union had concluded an agreement with Libya to combat illegal migration, under which Italy would provide material funding to the Libyan Coast Guard and would train and supply it with ships and equipment. The European Union has reportedly spent more than 90 million Euros ($100m) in funding and training the Libyan coastguard to stop the crossings.

In addition to the issue of the increase in deaths during the crossing of the Mediterranean, the human organizations also talked about the difficulties and administrative complications that European countries place in the face of humanitarian organizations.

Action Aid, Amnesty International and Doctors without Borders, non-governmental organizations, asked the Italian parliament to cancel Italian support for the Libyan coast guard forces, and called for a focus on protecting migrants and providing their human rights.

The French newspaper “Luton” in Lausanne also published the decision of a number of non-governmental organizations to stop the rescue operations they were carrying out in the Mediterranean waters, following “the serious threats they received from Libyan border guards”.

 As the activities of non-governmental organizations are not only threatened by the Libyan authorities, but also faced with more obstacles by the Italian government, which imposed on it the signing of a “code of conduct” that stipulates, for example, the prohibition of transferring migrants from one ship to another, and also imposes the presence of Agents of the judicial police are on their backs, to obstruct the rescue of migrants and the rescue operations carried out by some humanitarian organizations.

All the world know that migrants prefer facing the stormy sea than dying slowly in the Libyan detention camps, which are places of abhorrent torture and slavery, where more than five thousand refugees and migrants are held in 19 official detention facilities in Libya, controlled by armed groups, as well as a number of illegal immigrants. The detention camps are miserable centers run by smugglers, according to the United Nations. Human rights groups say abuses are widespread, including beatings and forced labor. Migrants face a fate similar to that of thousands of other vulnerable people trying to flee the country: detention, extortion and abuse.

In several reports, Amnesty International indicated that migrants in Libya are subjected to violence, extortion and forced labor in Libyan camps, and migrant women are subjected to violence and forced to have sex in exchange for water and food.

The sources also stressed that the violations committed over a decade against refugees and migrants continued uninterruptedly in Libyan detention centers during the first six months of 2021 despite repeated promises to address them.

 Humanitarian activists emphasized the suffering of people who were intercepted at sea and returned to Libya, where they are immediately taken to arbitrary detention, and subjected to systematic torture, sexual violence, forced labor, and other forms of exploitation, with complete impunity for the perpetrators.

Ten years ago, some EU worked together with NGOs realizing that people were in immediate danger and needed to be saved. That has changed now with the criminalization of NGOs trying to save lives. The politically motivated attacks on NGO vessels have complicated things more. UN agencies have recognized that by removing NGO vessels from the Mediterranean, they are making this voyage more dangerous and deadlier.

A journalist said when immigrants leave Libya; they have two options – either get intercepted and returned to Libya or die at sea. It’s unacceptable that, on the doorsteps of Europe, we’re allowing thousands and thousands to drown and do nothing while removing any hope they have of surviving.

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