United Nations criticizes 'inhuman' European Union policy on migrants in Libya

Elias Hubbard
November 15, 2017

In August, Italy and the European Union put in place a deal where they train the Libyan coastguard to intercept boats and return migrants to Libya, which is a large transit hub.

From 1 to 6 November, UN human rights monitors visited four Department of Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM) facilities in Tripoli, where they interviewed detainees who have fled conflict, persecution and extreme poverty from States across Africa and Asia, according to the High Commissioner's Office (OHCHR).

"The detention system for migrants in Libya is broken beyond fix", Hussein said.

Some 20,000 people were being held in facilities under the Libya authorities control in early November, up from about 7,000 in mid-September.

His Office has urged the Libyan authorities to stamp out human rights violations in centres under their control, while also calling on the worldwide community not to turn a blind eye to the "unimaginable horrors" endured by migrants in Libya.

From November 1-6, United Nations human rights monitors visited four DCIM facilities in Tripoli in the first week in November, and reported seeing thousands of emaciated and traumatised men, women and children locked up in insanitary, overcrowded hangars and lacking "the most basic necessities", Hussein said.

Migrants, including children, described horrific beatings by guards at detention centres, while many women said they faced rape and other sexual violence at the hands of smugglers and guards.

"I bled profusely, and I think I lost the baby".

He urged Libyan authorities to actively stamp out human rights violations in government-controlled centres, to open all migrant centres in the country, free those who detained and bring to justice individuals suspected of committing crimes against migrants.

An already dire situation had now turned "catastrophic", he said.

He also dismissed a meeting between African and European interior ministers in Bern, Switzerland on Monday that ended with both sides agreeing on improving detention conditions in Libya.

The EU wants to see that rescued migrants are brought "to reception centres that meet global humanitarian standards", the spokesman said, while at the same time improving the Libyan Coast Guard's capacity to prevent deaths at sea.

But Zeid, who has criticized European Union actions in Libya before, stressed that the agreements have not improved migrants' living conditions or protected them from abuse. This includes in global waters, despite the concerns which was raised by various rights groups that this would condemn more migrants to arbitrary and indefinite detention and expose them to forced labour or extortion.

Libya has always been a major transit hub for people trying to reach Europe.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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