Amnesty denounces ‘horrific’ violations, urges Europe not to repatriate migrants to Libya

Amnesty International on Thursday condemned the “horrific violations” committed against migrants who were returned to Libya with the cooperation of European states after trying to cross the Mediterranean. It said new evidence had emerged of “glaring violations, including sexual violence, against men, women and children”, intercepted at sea and forcibly returned to detention centers in the North African country.

The rights group in a report condemned “the continued complicity of European states” for cooperating with authorities in violence-ridden Libya.

By the end of 2020, the Libyan Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration had “legitimized” abuses by taking over two detention centers run by militias from which hundreds of refugees and migrants had been forcibly disappeared, it said.

It cited testimonials from survivors of a facility of security guards who subject women to sexual violence “in exchange for their release or for essentials such as clean water”.

Amnesty urged Europe to “suspend migration and border control cooperation with Libya”.

Italy and the European Union have for years funded, trained and assisted coast guards to prevent smugglers from bringing migrants and refugees into Europe in flimsy boats across the Mediterranean.

Despite having plunged into chaos after the fall of Moamer Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, Libya has become a favorite springboard for migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

UN agencies and non-governmental organizations operating in the Mediterranean regularly denounce Europe’s policy of forced return of migrants.

‘Hellscape of Detention’

Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, called the human rights organization’s new report “horrifying”.

It “sheds new light on the suffering of people intercepted at sea and returned to Libya, where they are immediately sent to arbitrary detention and systematically subjected to torture, sexual assault, forced labor and other exploitation,” she said.

European nations “have shamelessly continued to empower and assist the Libyan coastguard to capture people at sea and forcibly return them to the infernal landscape of detention in Libya, despite knowing full well the horrors they will endure,” said Eltahawy.

Eltahawy said Libya’s detention network is “rotten to the core and must be dismantled”.

Since the start of the summer, the number of crossings has increased as migrants take advantage of the good weather, but the number of people lost at sea has also increased.

Nearly 900 migrants have died trying to reach Europe from North Africa this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.

The UNHCR said the Libyan coastguard returned more than 13,000 people to Libya between January and June this year, more than the number returned in all of 2020.


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