One million enslaved migrants, victims of 'Europe's complicity' | Greenwatch Dhaka | The leading online daily of Bangladesh

One million enslaved migrants, victims of ‘Europe’s complicity’

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By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 13 2017 (IPS) – “European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya,” Amnesty International charged in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya.In its new report, ‘Libya’s dark web of collusion’, Amnesty International (AI) details how European governments are actively supporting a sophisticated system of abuse and exploitation of refugees and migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard, detention authorities and smugglers in order to prevent people from crossing the Mediterranean.
The Geneva-based UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that the number of migrants trapped in Libya could amount to up to one million, and it is now rushing to rescue the first 15,000 victims through a massive repatriation emergency plan. A major airlift is underway as IOM starts flying 15,000 more migrants from Libya before year end.
“Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya are at the mercy of Libyan authorities, militias, armed groups and smugglers often working seamlessly together for financial gain. Tens of thousands are kept indefinitely in overcrowded detention centres where they are subjected to systematic abuse,” said John Dalhuisen, AI’s Europe Director, on Dec 12.
“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these abuses,” Dalhuisen affirmed.
“By supporting Libyan authorities in trapping people in Libya, without requiring the Libyan authorities to tackle the endemic abuse of refugees and migrants or to even recognise that refugees exist, said Dalhuisen, European governments have shown where their true priorities lie: namely the closure of the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused.
Another EU ‘Shame’ Pact
AI’s revelation of such collusion between the European Union and Libya comes amidst a worldwide wave of denunciations against the measure adopted in 2016 by the EU member states –particularly Italy—aiming at closing off the migratory route through Libya and across the central Mediterranean.
These measures have been implemented with little care for the consequences for those trapped within Libya’s lawless borders, AI said, adding that Europe’s cooperation with Libyan actors has taken the following three-pronged approach:
Firstly, they have committed to providing technical support and assistance to the Libyan Department for Combatting Illegal Migration, which runs the detention centres where refugees and migrants are arbitrarily and indefinitely held and routinely exposed to serious human rights violations including torture.
Secondly, they have enabled the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept people at sea, by providing them with training, equipment, including boats, and technical and other assistance.
Thirdly, they have struck deals with Libyan local authorities and the leaders of tribes and armed groups – to encourage them to stop the smuggling of people and to increase border controls in the south of the country.
“Auctioned as Merchandise”
Meanwhile, after shocking images showing an auction of people were captured on video, UN human rights experts have urged the government of Libya to take immediate action to end the country’s trade in enslaved people.
“We were extremely disturbed to see the images which show migrants being auctioned as merchandise, and the evidence of markets in enslaved Africans which has since been gathered,” the UN human rights experts said in a joint statement.
It is now clear that slavery is an “outrageous reality” in Libya, they affirmed, adding that the auctions are reminiscent of “one of the darkest chapters in human history, when millions of Africans were uprooted, enslaved, trafficked and auctioned to the highest bidder.”
Slavery, Trafficking, Extortion, Rape, Torture…
The UN human rights experts also warned that migrants in Libya are “at high risk of multiple grave violations of their human rights, such as slavery, forced labour, trafficking, arbitrary and indefinite detention, exploitation and extortion, rape, torture and even being killed.”
“The enslavement of migrants derives from the situation of extreme vulnerability in which they find themselves. It is paramount that the government of Libya acts now to stop the human rights situation deteriorating further, and to bring about urgent improvements in the protection of migrants.”
The UN member states must “stop ignoring the unimaginable horrors endured by migrants in Libya, must urge countries to suspend any measures,” they urged.
AI, a global movement of more than 7 million people in over 150 countries campaigning to end human rights abuses, has also warned that the criminalisation of irregular entry under Libyan law, coupled with the absence of any legislation or practical infrastructure for the protection of asylum seekers and victims of trafficking, has resulted in “mass, arbitrary and indefinite detention becoming the primary migration management system in the country.”
“Auctioned as Merchandise”
Meanwhile, after shocking images showing an auction of people were captured on video, UN human rights experts have urged the government of Libya to take immediate action to end the country’s trade in enslaved people.
“We were extremely disturbed to see the images which show migrants being auctioned as merchandise, and the evidence of markets in enslaved Africans which has since been gathered,” the UN human rights experts said in a joint statement.
It is now clear that slavery is an “outrageous reality” in Libya, they affirmed, adding that the auctions are reminiscent of “one of the darkest chapters in human history, when millions of Africans were uprooted, enslaved, trafficked and auctioned to the highest bidder.”
Slavery, Trafficking, Extortion, Rape, Torture…
The UN human rights experts also warned that migrants in Libya are “at high risk of multiple grave violations of their human rights, such as slavery, forced labour, trafficking, arbitrary and indefinite detention, exploitation and extortion, rape, torture and even being killed.”
“The enslavement of migrants derives from the situation of extreme vulnerability in which they find themselves. It is paramount that the government of Libya acts now to stop the human rights situation deteriorating further, and to bring about urgent improvements in the protection of migrants.”
The UN member states must “stop ignoring the unimaginable horrors endured by migrants in Libya, must urge countries to suspend any measures,” they urged.
AI, a global movement of more than 7 million people in over 150 countries campaigning to end human rights abuses, has also warned that the criminalisation of irregular entry under Libyan law, coupled with the absence of any legislation or practical infrastructure for the protection of asylum seekers and victims of trafficking, has resulted in “mass, arbitrary and indefinite detention becoming the primary migration management system in the country.”
Up to One Million Migrants Trapped in Libya
To date IOM has registered more than 400,000 migrants in Libya, and it estimates their number to be more than 700,000 to 1 million. The scaling up of the assistance will also include migrants wishing to go back home but who are not in detention centers.
“Large numbers of migrants are held in overcrowded detention centers, in conditions that fall far short of basic and humane standards. A large number of those migrants have expressed a wish to return to their countries of origin and IOM is now scaling up its air operations out of Libya to assist those men, women and children who may wish to return home.”
IOM’s initial effort will focus on 15,000 migrants, which it aims to help return and reintegrate in countries of origin before the end of the year. “This is a choice people make voluntarily, hoping for a new start at home,” said Othman Belbeisi, IOM’s chief of Mission in Libya.

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