The European Union’s (EU) support for Libya’s Coast Guard which has resulted in thousands of migrants being detained in “horrific” conditions inside Libya is “inhuman,” the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Zeid Ra’ad, said yesterday.
“The suffering of migrants detained in Libya is an outrage to the conscience of humanity,” Ra’ad, added in a statement.
“The European Union’s policy of assisting the Libyan coastguard to intercept and return migrants in the Mediterranean [is] inhuman,” he noted.
Ra’ad stressed that “the international community cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the unimaginable horrors endured by migrants in Libya, and pretend that the situation can be remedied only by improving conditions in detention.”
“The increasing interventions of the EU and its member states have done nothing so far to reduce the level of abuses suffered by migrants,” he pointed out, adding that instead, there appeared to be a “fast deterioration in their situation in Libya”.
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From 1 to 6 November, Ra’ad added, UN human rights monitors visited four Department of Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM) facilities in Tripoli, where they interviewed detainees who have fled conflict, persecution and extreme poverty from States across Africa and Asia.
“Monitors were shocked by what they witnessed: thousands of emaciated and traumatized men, women and children piled on top of one another, locked up in hangars with no access to the most basic necessities, and stripped of their human dignity,” the UN official said.
Libya has long been a major transit hub for people trying to reach Europe. Many have fallen prey to serious abuse in the country at the hands of traffickers and others. 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.
The increase came after authorities detained thousands of people previously held by smugglers in Libya’s trafficking hub Sabratha, west of Tripoli.
The European Union is providing assistance to the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept migrant boats in the Mediterranean. This includes in international 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.
“We cannot be a silent witness to modern-day slavery, rape and other sexual violence, and unlawful killings, in the name of managing migration and preventing desperate and traumatised people from reaching Europe’s shores,” Ra’ad reiterated.