Smug­glers tor­tur­ing mi­grants

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

DAKAR: Peo­ple smug­glers and crim­i­nal gangs in Libya are us­ing so­cial me­dia to broad­cast the abuse and vi­o­lence they in­flict on African mi­grants in their cap­tiv­ity and de­mand ran­soms from their fam­i­lies back home, claims the UN.

In a video posted on Face­book, hun­dreds of ema­ci­ated So­ma­lis and Ethiopi­ans, in­clud­ing sev­eral chil­dren, are seen hud­dled in a room in an un­known lo­ca­tion in Libya. The mi­grants and refugees be­ing filmed say they have been beaten, tor­tured and held in cells with­out food, and that their par­ents and rel­a­tives have re­ceived video clips via so­cial me­dia ask­ing for up to $10 000 (R128 800) to spare them from be­ing killed.

“They broke my teeth... they broke my hand... this stone has been put on me for the last three days,” says one man in the video posted last week, ex­plain­ing how his cap­tors placed a con­crete block on his back as a pun­ish­ment af­ter his fam­ily re­fused to pay up $8 000.

At least 20 000 mi­grants are be­ing de­tained in Libya, the main gate­way for those at­tempt­ing to reach Europe by sea, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Mi­gra­tion (IOM).

Many are held and ex­torted for money by smug­glers and gangs, and ris­ing num­bers are traded – in what they call slave mar­kets – for forced labour and sex­ual ex­ploita­tion, the UN agency says.

“The IOM con­demns the way that crim­i­nal gangs use so­cial me­dia in their shock­ing abuse of peo­ple held against their will and to ex­tort money from their fam­i­lies back home,” said Mo­hammed Ab­diker, IOM di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions and emer­gen­cies.

“This is a global prob­lem where a smug­gler or a crim­i­nal gang can eas­ily use dig­i­tal plat­forms to ad­ver­tise their ser­vices, en­tice vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple on the move and then ex­ploit them and their fam­i­lies,” Ab­diker said.

Sene­galese mi­grants who were flown home by the IOM from Libya told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion of the “hell” they en­dured, rang­ing from be­ing beaten and starved to watch­ing help­lessly as their peers died of hunger and ill­ness. – Reuters

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