Libya’s treat­ment of refugees un­der the spot­light

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - MEL FRYKBERG ANA

LIBYA’S coast­guard stands ac­cused by search-and-res­cue or­gan­i­sa­tions of reck­less be­hav­iour and en­dan­ger­ing the lives of des­per­ate African refugees try­ing to reach Europe from the North African coun­try.

The ac­cu­sa­tions come as two UN agencies on Tues­day pledged to “go the ex­tra mile” in sup­port­ing mi­grants, refugees, asy­lum seek­ers and Libyans af­fected by Libya’s on­go­ing con­flict.

“A se­ries of in­ci­dents caught on cam­era ap­pear to show Libyan ships try­ing to pre­vent refugees be­ing pulled from the water. Refugees also say they’ve been robbed and shot at by Libyan forces,” Al Jazeera re­ported.

Ac­cord­ing to the refugees, they were also or­dered at gun­point to jump from their boats into the sea by the armed coast­guards.

A spokesper­son from Libya’s coast­guard didn’t deny the claims, but ac­cused the res­cue boats of il­le­gally en­ter­ing the coun­try’s wa­ters with­out first co-or­di­nat­ing their move­ments with the Libyan au­thor­i­ties.

This is not the first time the Libyans have been ac­cused of mis­treat­ing the refugees, who use the North African coun­try as a point of de­par­ture to flee to Europe in over­crowded and un­sea­wor­thy boats run by hu­man traf­fick­ers, sub­se­quently re­sult­ing in the drown­ing of hun­dreds.

Ear­lier in the year the UN chil­dren’s agency, Unicef, re­leased a re­port, “A Deadly Jour­ney for Chil­dren: The Cen­tral Mediter­ranean Mi­grant Route”, which said mi­grant women and chil­dren were be­ing sub­jected to sex­ual vi­o­lence, ex­ploita­tion, abuse and de­ten­tion along the cen­tral Mediter­ranean mi­gra­tion route from North Africa to Italy.

“Last year, at least 4 579 peo­ple died at­tempt­ing to cross the Mediter­ranean from Libya, or one in ev­ery 40 of those who made the at­tempt. It is es­ti­mated that at least 700 of those who lost their lives were chil­dren,” said Unicef.

Women and chil­dren also re­ported harsh and over­crowded con­di­tions, in­clud­ing lack of nu­tri­tious food and ad­e­quate shel­ter, in Libyan de­ten­tion cen­tres run by both govern­ment and armed mili­tias.

Ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports, the mis­treat­ment and tor­ture of refugees, some­times lead­ing to their deaths, in the de­ten­tion camps is not un­usual.

“Libyan au­thor­i­ties should end the tor­ture and sex­ual vi­o­lence that has been the lot of de­tained mi­grants for years,” said Sarah Leah Whit­son, the Mid­dle East and North Africa di­rec­tor at Hu­man Rights Watch.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

Refugees are res­cued off the coast of Libya.

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