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Migrants Exploited by Smugglers in Libya

(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)

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Horrific stories told by refugees who migrated from Libya to Italy via the mediterranean were published on Friday by Amnesty International.

Amnesty International was able to meet and interview over 90 refugees in Italy’s Puglia and Sicily centres set up to receive refugees.

Most of the refugees had fled from their Sub-Saharan countries in search for a better quality of life in Europe.

The journey for these refugees is always a safety risk and the ongoing conflict in Libya has put migrants in greater risk as rogue militant groups like the, so-called, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continue to fuel chaos in the country.

Libyan criminal gangs were reported to have harshly abused migrants while most of the migrants interviewed said they were tortured and abused by the human traffickers who they trusted to get them to Europe.

The inhumane treatment that migrants were subjected to included beatings, sexual violence, and other forms of torture.

Some of the migrants told stories of mass rape. One Eritrean women said she saw women being raped and sexually abused by the smugglers. One specific incident she encountered was when a woman was gang-raped after one of the smugglers wrongfully claimed that the women had not paid her fee. “They took her away and she was raped by five Libyan men,” said the Eritrean woman.

Another Eritrean women the smugglers raped her multiple times while they held her prisoner somewhere in north-eastern side of Libya.

“The guards would drink and smoke cannabis and then come in and choose which women they wanted and take them outside. The women tried to refuse but when you have a gun pointed at your head, you don’t really have a choice if you want to survive. I was raped twice by three men … I didn’t want to lose my life,” she said.

A woman who migrated from Cameroon mentioned that the smugglers would rape pregnant women.

There were also reports of migrants kept as prisoners until a ransom was paid. While in captivity migrants endured harsh living conditions. They were kept in tight spaces, beaten and were often given no food or water.

A 22 year old also from Eritrea who was held as a prisoner by the smugglers said he witnessed four people die of starvations or illnesses that resulted from the harsh conditions they were subjected to.

Another migrant from Eritrea witnessed a man killed by being electrocuted in water for not being able to pay the smugglers.

Magdelena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said, “their experiences paint a terrifying picture of the conditions many of those who come to Europe are so desperate to escape.”

Mughrabi is calling on Libyan authorities as well as the European Union to step up their efforts in securing a safer journey for refugees fleeing Africa for Europe.

“The Libyan authorities must take urgent steps to restore the rule of law and protect the rights of refugees and migrants.”

“The EU should focus less on keeping migrants and refugees out and more on finding safe and legal ways for those trapped in Libya to access a place of safety.” Mughrabi said.

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