The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says human traffickers and smugglers in Libya are impersonating their humanitarian aid staff, wearing UNHCR vests and other items to deceive migrants.
Citing reliable reports from their sources and refugees, UNHCR said the practice pops up at smuggling hubs and disembarkation points where migrant populations are concentrated – and targeted.
“UNHCR information comes from refugees who report having been sold to traffickers in Libya, and subjected to abuse and torture, including after having been intercepted at sea,” the agency said. “UNHCR is collecting more information and investigating these allegations.”
The agency said that in Libya, its legitimate representatives and partners are visible at migration hotspots to provide humanitarian and medical aid, including food, water and clothes. When migrants returned to Libya arrive from ships and are taken to detention centers, they also are monitored.
“UNHCR is not engaged in transferring refugees from disembarkation points to detention centers,” the agency said. It also notes the deteriorating situation in Tripoli, and reports of atrocities against refugees and asylum seekers that include rape, kidnapping and torture.
The UN is calling for alternatives to detention for migrants in Libya, as well as their demand that Libyan authorities take action against criminals impersonating UNHCR staff.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has called Libya a “torture archipelago” for migrants, who are trafficked into what are essentially slave markets. The issue gained international attention after IOM first revealed how dire the situation was in April 2017.
Image: IOM file