In a report published in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya, AI shed lights on how European governments are “actively supporting a sophisticated system of abuse and exploitation” of refugees and migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard, detention authorities and smugglers in order to prevent people from crossing the Mediterranean.
“Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya are at the mercy of Libyan authorities, militias, armed groups and smugglers often working seamlessly together for financial gain. Tens of thousands are kept indefinitely in overcrowded detention centers where they are subjected to systematic abuse,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.
European governments “have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these abuses”, said Amnesty International.
Since late 2016, EU Member States – particularly Italy – have implemented a series of measures aimed at closing off the migratory route through Libya and across the central Mediterranean, with little care for the consequences for those trapped within Libya’s lawless borders.
According to AI, the criminalization of irregular entry under Libyan law, coupled with the absence of any legislation or practical infrastructure for the protection of asylum seekers and victims of trafficking, has “resulted in mass, arbitrary and indefinite detention becoming the primary migration management system in the country”.
Refugees and migrants intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard are sent to DCIM detention centers where they endure horrific treatment, said AI in its report, noting that up to 20,000 people currently remain contained in these overcrowded, unsanitary detention centers.
“By supporting Libyan authorities in trapping people in Libya, without requiring the Libyan authorities to tackle the endemic abuse of refugees and migrants or to even recognize that refugees exist, European governments have shown where their true priorities lie: namely the closure of the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused,” said AI Europe Director.
“European governments must rethink their cooperation with Libya on migration and enable people to get to Europe through legal pathways, including by resettling tens of thousands of refugees. They must insist that the Libyan authorities end the policy and practice of arbitrary arrests and detention of refugees and migrants, immediately release all foreign nationals held in the detention centres, and allow the UNHCR to operate unhindered”, he stressed.
The dire situation of migrants in Libya came under the spot-light lately after CNN aired a shocking video footage showing Sub-Saharans being sold at an auction in slave markets in Libya. The video, showing migrants referred to as “merchandise” sold off for $400, triggered a global outrage.
The appalling video footage prompted the United Nations, the European Union and the African Union, during the EU-AU summit held in Abidjan end of November, to put in place a joint Task Force to save and protect lives of migrants and refugees along the routes and in particular inside Libya.
The three organizations discussed concrete steps to address jointly the dramatic situation of migrants and refugees victims of criminal networks, in particular inside Libya.