Amnesty: Migrants in Libya Suffer Torture, Abuse in Detention

Amnesty International reports that Libyan detentions centres have only gotten worse in this last year despite being placed under the supervision of the Interior Ministry

Migrants intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast guard live in horrifying conditions and often have to barter for basic needs such as water and food according to Amnesty Internatioal. [Photo: AFP]
According to an Amnesty International report, migrants detained in Libyan detention centres face severe sexual assault at the hands of guards, including being forced to trade sex for clean water, food, and access to toilets.

The report, which focused on migrants caught in the Mediterranean and who disembarked in Libya in 2020 and 2021, shows that circumstances in the camps are deteriorating despite the fact that they were recently placed under the supervision of the Libyan interior ministry.

“Maybe you want fresh water and beds… let me have sex with you, so I can liberate you,” camp guards urged, according to a woman who contacted Amnesty, one of many who said guards inside raped or forced women into sex in return for their freedom or clean water.

According to the human rights organization, the study demonstrated the effects of Europe’s collaboration with Libya on migration and border control. Amnesty International is urging EU member states to stop cooperating with Libya.

The findings are based on interviews with 53 refugees and migrants aged 14 to 50 from Nigeria, Somalia, and Syria, most of whom were still in Libya and had been able to escape camps or had access to cell phones.

Some pregnant women within the camps told Amnesty that soldiers raped them repeatedly, while males said they were forced to wear only their underwear in an attempt to humiliate them. Others, including boys, claimed to have been beaten, harassed, and molested.

With funding from the EU, the Libyan Coast Guard have intercepted some 15,000 individuals in the first six months of this year, more than in the entire year of 2020. According to Amnesty International, around 6,100 individuals had been transported to camps by the end of June.

Some European legislators have pushed the European Commission, the EU executive, to discontinue paying the coast guards, claiming that Libya is not a “safe nation” for migrants.

“This horrifying report sheds new light on the suffering of people intercepted at sea and returned to Libya, where they are immediately funnelled into arbitrary detention and systematically subjected to torture, sexual violence, forced labour, and other exploitation with total impunity,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reiterated that returning migrants to Libya is a violation of human rights laws.

Since the instability that erupted in the aftermath of the February 17th revolution in 2011, Libya has become a point of departure for thousands of migrants seeking to flee Africa and cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

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