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‘Extremely bad conditions’ for migrants in Libya

September 15, 2017 at 3:13 pm

Image of migrants being rescued while crossing the Mediterranean sea on 7 May 2017 [Iker Pastor/Anadolu Agency]

The UN is renewing its attempt to improve the “terrible” conditions for migrants detained in Libya and provide further means to return those stranded home.

According to Laura Thompson from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) working with the UN who was speaking at a conference on migration this week in Costa Rica, there are around 32 detention centres in Libya half of which “are controlled by the government”.

Thompson described the centres as in “extremely bad conditions” and revealed that not much is known on the numbers of migrant families who stay in the centres where there is often a lack of food, “lack of adequate sanitary conditions, but in addition to that a mix of women, children, men” all thrown in together.

Since the start of 2017, Libya has been a major point of departure for migrants from African countries like Niger and Chad to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe but the numbers have been decreasing, Chris Gaul from IOM told MEMO.

The number of deaths in the Mediterranean has almost doubled, so even though the people coming here [to Europe] is less, the deaths have doubled.

The migrants are often left at the mercy of human traffickers who charge extortionate rates to help migrants begin their journey however they are often supplied with overcrowded boats that are fraught with problems.

Read more: International Organisation for Migration: 23,000 migrants dead or disappeared worldwide

The EU has reiterated its support to help Libya cope with the crisis by providing funding and training to the Libyan Coast Guard.

UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein last week slammed the EU for “turning a blind eye” to the brutality suffered by migrants from the coast guard and within the detention centres.

Over the course of the year, reports of rape, torture and slavery have become increasingly common and highlighted the dire situation many find themselves in whilst trying to find a better quality of life. Those most susceptible to exploitation and human traffickers are minors particularly sub-Saharans.

Read more: Italy begins naval mission to help Libya curb migrant flows

IOM called for the Libyan coast guard to follow international standards in order to prevent the “vicious circle of saving people and putting them in detention conditions that are terrible.”

Over the past three years, IOM Italy has seen an almost 600 per cent increase in the number of potential sex trafficking victims arriving in Italy by sea which has been struggling with the sheer numbers that arrive on its shores compared to elsewhere in Europe.

The organisation has repatriated 7,500 migrants so far this year as migrants choose to return home than suffer abuse but the process can be long. Many travel without necessary identity papers and obtaining them from their relevant consulates in Libya is impossible due to the security situation in the country preventing them from operating.

Since 2014, around 22,500 migrants have died worldwide-over 3,768 have died so far this year, majority of whom have been African migrants who have drowned, according to Missing Migrants Project.