UN report: Migrants in Libya experience rape, enslavement and torture

Migrants in Libyan shelter centers

The New Arab – Migrants arriving in Libya are being subjected to torture, rape, enslavement and other violations, according to a United Nations report published Tuesday.

The UN urged Libya to improve conditions for migrants in detention.

“The situation of migrants in Libya is a human rights crisis. The breakdown in the justice system has led to a state of impunity, in which armed groups, criminal gangs, smugglers and traffickers control the flow of migrants through the country,” the report said.

The report implicated government officials, armed groups and smugglers in perpetrating the abuses.

“The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has also received credible information that some members of state institutions and some local officials have participated in the smuggling and trafficking process,” it added.

The report documents, among other incidents, a report of a migrant boat being attacked by Libya’s coastguard while out at sea.

The sticks being used by the guards reportedly pierced one of the boat’s air-filled tubes, causing it to collapse. According to Sea-Watch, they were able to rescue 120 persons and four dead bodies that had fallen into the sea.

Libya’s navy denied that a boat was attacked, however acknowledged that an incident occured with Sea-Watch on October 21.

For those who do manage to reach Libyan shores safely, conditions often only get worse, with only detention and exploitation waiting.

The report said that the buying and selling of migrants is a common occurrence, with many being forced to work in order to cover the expenses of their onward journey.

Women from Sudan who had spoken to the UN’s investigators reported being told to take a three-month contraceptive injection prior to going to Libya. This is because the high possibility of rape after arrival, the report said.

Over 168,000 migrants are recorded as having arrived in Italy from Libya between January 1 and November 22 this year. A further 4,164 are known to have died while undertaking the perilous sea journey.

In its report, the UN urged Libya’s government to release the most vulnerable migrants and to provide protection from abuse by traffickers and authorities.

The UN also called upon the European Union to “further evaluate” the training programme of Libya’s coastguard “to ensure that its vetting procedures are stringent and its human rights component is comprehensive”.

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