In Libya, life for irregular migrants has never been easy. During the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, had made arrests, detention, torture and exploitation.
At many of these violations of human rights, Italy has contributed with technical agreements that involved many governments, sealed by the Agreement of Friendship, Partnership and Cooperation Agreement signed in August 2008 by Gaddafi and Berlusconi, who has started the shameful and illegal so-called season of “refoulement” (to be precise, two months ago the president of the National Transitional Council has confirmed that the 2008 agreement with Libya is still in force).
The “revolution of February 17” 2011 has not changed the fate of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. In some ways, because of the security vacuum, the absence of rule of law, the proliferation of armed militias, the impunity of those provisions and the ease with which you can find the weapons, the risks are even greater.
An Amnesty International mission to Libya has collected numerous testimonies.
David (for reasons of safety, real name and the place where the events took place are concealed), a Nigerian citizen aged 42, was arrested last August without warrant by a group of militiamen in uniform. They caught him with sticks, beat him with rifle butts and shot him in the leg to bring it in a detention center. One December night, he was dragged out of his cell, handcuffed to a fence and beaten with a rubber hose. “I lived and worked in many countries, but Libya is the worst. You do not know who is the police, who are these armed gangs, there is no one to help you “- says David.
In another detention center, a citizen of Chad, after more than two months, still visible on his back the marks of the beating he had been subjected with wooden sticks and metal bars. They punished, he said, because he tried to escape. His cell mates told that the guards often beat them up for the “errors”, as asking medicines, complaining about the lack of hygiene or solicit information on their legal fate. In May, a Nigerian citizen was beaten to death.
Despite the evidence on the climate of violence against migrants are known in sub-Saharan countries of origin, the desperation and the need to escape from poverty continue to push many of them to enter Libya. The routes to cross the southern border are two: one that passes Sabha, for those coming from West Africa, and by Kufra for who coming from the Horn of Africa and Sudan.
The travel tales are terrible: abandoned by smugglers in the desert without a compass and miles away from the nearest town, makes us continue the journey on foot under the sun.
A woman from Cameroon, 24 years, two weeks after he entered Libya, was arrested by a group of militiamen in civilian clothes because they had no entry visa. In prison he was forced to do heavy work, like to download the boxes of ammunition.
A fellow prisoner of Mali has been likened to “a modern day slave” forced to work, covered with racial slurs and beaten for “disobeying” the leaders.
In other detention centers, migrants arrested were “recruited” by an employer to end up breaking their backs without pay or with pay less than agreed. The round of money is great. A senior official in Benghazi has admitted that the detention centers for illegal migrants has become a business.
As can be imagined, the Libyan institutions are not present here. One of the many detention centers run by the militias is to Gharyan. We have amassed 1000 nationals, including women and children from Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan and other countries. In large part, were arrested at a roadblock as they tried to reach the capital Tripoli, 100 miles north.
Libya does not recognize the right of asylum and has to sign the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees. This means that asylum seekers are treated as illegal migrants.
The directors of detention centers say they know that the people of Eritrea and Somalia can not be returned to their country. But there is a uniform procedure to be applied to protect them.
A Gharyan, for example, the Eritreans and Somalis are released when their embassies have confirmed their nationality and have signed a “certificate”: a profound contradiction, given that these are people fleeing political persecution. Once outside, it is likely to be arrested again: in that case, says the director, there is the freedom upon payment of a deposit of 1000 dinars. And who pays them? No money, no freedom.
As during the Gaddafi regime, Europe turned its back on the other side when it considers appropriate to denounce violations of human rights in Libya. Just Tripoli maintains its role as controller of the flows of migrants and refugees.
Source: Italian Article by Il Fatto Quotidiano
by Riccardo Noury