‘Mi­grants face ‘vi­cious cy­cle of cru­elty’ in Libya’

Arab Times - - LOCAL/MIDEAST -

CAIRO, Sept 24, (AP): Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said Thurs­day that thou­sands of Europe-bound mi­grants who were in­ter­cepted and re­turned to Libyan shores this year were force­fully dis­ap­peared af­ter be­ing taken out of un­of­fi­cial de­ten­tion cen­ters run by mili­tias al­lied with the UN-sup­ported gov­ern­ment in the cap­i­tal, Tripoli.

In its lat­est re­port, the group also said that ri­val au­thor­i­ties in eastern Libya forcibly ex­pelled sev­eral thou­sand mi­grants “with­out due process or the op­por­tu­nity to chal­lenge their de­por­ta­tion.”

Libya, which de­scended into chaos fol­low­ing the 2011 up­ris­ing that top­pled and killed long­time dic­ta­tor Moam­mar Gaddafi, has emerged as a ma­jor tran­sit point for African and Arab mi­grants flee­ing war and poverty to Europe.

Most mi­grants make the per­ilous jour­ney in ill-equipped and un­safe rub­ber boats. In re­cent years, the Euro­pean Union has part­nered with Libya’s coast guard and other Libyan forces to stop the flow of mi­grants and thou­sands have been in­ter­cepted at sea and re­turned to Libya.

Of­fi­cials in Libya’s east and west did not re­spond to re­peated phone calls seek­ing com­ment.

Amnesty said about 8,500 mi­grants, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren, were in­ter­cepted and brought back to Libya be­tween Jan 1 and Sept 14. Since 2016, an es­ti­mated 60,000 men, women and chil­dren have been cap­tured at sea and taken to Libya where they dis­em­barked, it said.

“The EU and its mem­ber states con­tinue to im­ple­ment poli­cies trap­ping tens of thou­sands of men, women and chil­dren in a vi­cious cy­cle of abuse, show­ing a cal­lous dis­re­gard for peo­ple’s lives and dig­nity,” said Diana El­ta­hawy, Amnesty’s deputy re­gional di­rec­tor.

Thou­sands have been sub­jected to en­forced dis­ap­pear­ances in 2020, af­ter be­ing taken to un­of­fi­cial de­ten­tion cen­ters in west­ern Libya, in­clud­ing to the so-called To­bacco Fac­tory in Tripoli, run by a gov­ern­ment-al­lied mili­tia, Amnesty said.

There, the mi­grants and refuges face a “con­stant risk” of be­ing ab­ducted by mili­tias, armed groups and traf­fick­ers.

They are “trapped in a vi­cious cy­cle of cru­elty with lit­tle to no hope of find­ing safe and le­gal path­ways out,” the re­port said. “Some are tor­tured or raped un­til their fam­i­lies pay ran­soms to se­cure their re­lease. Oth­ers die in cus­tody as a re­sult of vi­o­lence, tor­ture, star­va­tion or med­i­cal ne­glect.”

El­ta­hawy urged the EU to “com­pletely re­con­sider” its co­op­er­a­tion with Libyan au­thor­i­ties and make “any fur­ther sup­port con­di­tional on im­me­di­ate ac­tion to stop hor­rific abuses against refugees and mi­grants.”

In 2020, eastern Libya au­thor­i­ties forcibly ex­pelled over 5,000 refugees and mi­grants, cit­ing their al­leged car­ry­ing of “con­ta­gious dis­eases” among rea­sons cited for the de­por­ta­tions.

Amnesty cited an in­ci­dent, with­out say­ing when it hap­pened, in which eastern Libyan forces blocked a bus from en­ter­ing the south­east­ern city of Kufra un­less three Cha­dian nationals got off. They were or­dered to take a COVID-19 test and left in the desert out­side the city, while other pas­sen­gers, all of them Libyans, were al­lowed to en­ter with­out fur­ther checks or test­ing.

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