Amnesty: migrants face ‘horrifying’ abuses in Libya

Amnesty International is demanding the international community take action to address "horrifying" abuses of refugees and migrants in Libya. The June 30 statement warns that EU cooperation on immigration with the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (actually one of three rival governments in Libya) should not go ahead until guarantees for human rights are provided. Testimony gathered from some 90 migrants and refugees who made it to the safety of three camps in the Sicily and Puglia regions of Italy describes how Black Africans are imprisoned and exploited until they could earn their payment to traffickers or have more money sent by relatives back home. "From being abducted, incarcerated underground for months and sexually abused by members of armed groups, to being beaten, exploited or shot at by people smugglers, traffickers or criminal gangs—refugees and migrants have described in harrowing detail the horrors they were forced to endure in Libya," said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty's interim deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"Their experiences paint a terrifying picture of the conditions many of those who come to Europe are so desperate to escape," Mughrabi added.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates there are over 264,000 migrants and refugees currently in Libya. Of these, some 37,500 are registered refugees and asylum-seekers, half of them Syrians., according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Mughrabi found fault with international reaction to the mass displacement: "The EU should focus less on keeping migrants and refugees out and more on finding safe and legal ways for those trapped in Libya to access a place of safety. The priority should be saving lives. This means deploying enough resources in the right places to prevent further tragedy."

Amnesty International documented abuses by smugglers, traffickers and armed groups in Libya in its 2015 report "Libya is full of Cruelty." "The latest testimonies show that one year on, refugees and migrants continue to be subjected to horrifying abuse," the group's new statement says. (Libya Herald, July 1; AI, June 30)