Amnesty International condemned the “horrible violations” committed against migrants who tried to cross the Mediterranean and returned to Libya with the cooperation of European countries.
The rights group said on Thursday that new evidence showed that “dreadful violations of men, women, and children, including sexual violence against men, women, and children” were stopped at sea and forcibly returned to detention in North African countries. center.
The amnesty, in a 50-page report (PDF), condemned the “continued complicity of European countries” for cooperating with the war-torn Libyan authorities.
It said that by the end of 2020, the Libyan Anti-Illegal Immigration Service “legalized” the abuse by taking over two detention centers operated by armed groups and forced disappearance of hundreds of refugees and migrants from there.
According to the report, one of these facilities is the Shara al-Zawiya Center in Tripoli.
Pope Francis and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the closure of these facilities.
Amnesty International cited testimony from survivors of a facility that exposed women to sexual violence “in exchange for their release or necessities such as clean water”, or their freedom.
A woman said that she was beaten severely for refusing to comply with such a request. She said: “I told [the guard] Do not. He knocked me back with a gun. He used leather soldier shoes… [kick] I am from my waist. “
Amnesty International said that two young women in the facility attempted suicide because of such abuse.
Others, including boys, described being groped, stimulated, and violated.
The findings came from interviews with 53 refugees and immigrants between the ages of 14 and 50. They came from countries such as Nigeria, Somalia and Syria. Most of them were still in Libya and were able to escape refugee camps or use the phone.
Amnesty also reviewed documents, photos and videos of the Libyan authorities and the United Nations.
The rights group urged Europe to “suspend cooperation with Libya on immigration and border control.”
‘Rotten to its core’
Over the years, Italy and the European Union have provided funding, training and assistance to the Coast Guard to prevent smugglers from bringing migrants and refugees to Europe in overcrowded ships across the Mediterranean.
Despite the chaos following the fall of the Muammar Gaddafi regime in 2011, Libya has become a springboard favored by immigrants seeking a better life in Europe.
Some people are fleeing conflict or persecution, and many of the hundreds of thousands are fleeing poverty.
United Nations agencies and NGOs operating in the Mediterranean often condemn Europe’s policy of forcing migrants to return.
Diana Eltahawy, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Affairs, called the human rights organization’s new report “shocking.”
She said it “gave a new understanding of the suffering of people who were intercepted at sea and returned to Libya, where they were immediately arbitrarily detained and systematically subjected to torture, sexual violence, forced labor, and other exploitation, while Complete impunity”.
Eltahawy said that European countries “shamefully continue to use and assist the Libyan Coast Guard to capture people at sea and forcibly return them to the hellish detention facilities in Libya, even though they are well aware of the terror they will endure”.
Eltahawy said that Libya’s detention network “has rotted to the core and must be dismantled”.
Although after the fall of Gaddafi in 2011, as part of the UN-supported peace plan, the warring factions in Libya have ceased fighting since October, but armed groups still hold power there and some control immigrant camps.
Since the beginning of summer, as immigrants took advantage of the good weather, the number of people passing through the border has increased, but the number of people missing at sea has also increased.
According to the International Organization for Migration, nearly 900 migrants died this year while trying to reach Europe from North Africa.
UNHCR stated that the Coast Guard brought more than 13,000 people back to Libya between January and June this year, surpassing the number for the whole of 2020.