Migrants and refugees are being subjected to “unimaginable horrors” from the moment they enter Libya, and at every stage of their journey as they seek to cross the Mediterranean Sea, according to a report released Thursday by UNSMIL, the UN Support Mission in Libya.
The 61-page report is based on 1,300 firsthand accounts gathered by UN human rights staff in Libya itself, as well as from migrants who have returned to Nigeria or reached Italy during a 20-month period ending in August 2018. The report was jointly issued with the UN Human Rights Office.
It details “a terrible litany of violations and abuses committed by a range of state officials, armed groups, smugglers and traffickers against migrants and refugees,” said UNSMIL. “These include unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary detention, gang rape, slavery, forced labor and extortion.”
There are between 700,000 and one million migrants and refugees in Libya, the overwhelming majority of them males from sub-Saharan and North African countries. Most are from Niger, Chad, Egypt, Sudan, Ghana and Nigeria, the report said.
UNSMIL points to the apparent “complicity of some state actors,” including local officials and representatives of Libyan ministry offices, in the smuggling or trafficking of migrants and refugees.
“There is a local and international failure to handle this hidden human calamity that continues to take place in Libya,” said Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNSMIL, Ghassan Salamé.
Those who are returned to Libya after unsuccessful Mediterranean crossing attempts are detained under conditions that may constitute violations of international law and human rights. The report calls on the European Union and member nations to reconsider the human costs of their policies to stem migration to Europe.
The complete report is available here.
Image: Libya Red Crescent file