Illegal immigrants inside cargo ship prefer death to returning to Libya, reports say

Mirants refuse to be returned to Libya (Photo: Al-Jazeera)

Refugees and migrants refusing to leave a cargo boat in a Libyan port are pleading to be taken to Europe, saying they are prepared to die than be returned to detention in Libya. 

As the standoff with Libyan authorities in Misrata entered its ninth day, two of those on board told Al Jazeera on Sunday it was too dangerous to go back to Libyan detention centers, saying they would risk “being abused and sold to people smugglers while having little hope of being evacuated.”

Libyan, European and Panamanian authorities must ensure that at least 79 refugees and migrants who are on board a merchant vessel at the port of Misratah are not forced to disembark to be taken to a Libyan detention centre where they could face torture and other abuse, said Amnesty International last Saturday.

The refugees and migrants, including a number of children, were found as they attempted to reach Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. Amnesty International understands that Italian and Maltese maritime authorities were involved in the operation, carried out by the merchant ship Nivin. Flying a Panamanian flag, the Nivin picked the group up in the central Mediterranean on 8 November and returned them to Libya, in what appears to be a clear breach of international law, given that Libya cannot be considered a safe place to disembark.

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