UN Report Urges End to ‘Unimaginable Abuse’ of Migrants in Libya

Human Wrongs Watch

A joint report launched 13 December 2016 by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) citied “unimaginable” human rights violations and abuses of migrants in Libya as a result of the breakdown in the crisis-riven country’s justice system.

Migrants at a detention centre in the city of Zawiya, Libya. Photo: Mathieu Galtier/IRIN

“People smuggled or trafficked into Libya face torture, forced labour and sexual exploitation along the route, and many while held in arbitrary detention,” Martin Kobler, the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Libya and Head of UNSMIL in a news release.

The report, entitled Detained and Dehumanised: Report on Human Rights Abuses against Migrants in Libya also stated that migrants were held in detention centres mostly run by the Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM), and had no access to lawyers or judicial authorities, no formal registration, and no legal process.

In addition, some migrants were held in “connection houses,” on farms, in warehouses and inside apartments. They were forced to work and earn money for their onward transport. “We are called animals and are treated as animals,” a 16-year-old boy from Eritrea had told UNSMIL.

The report also described armed men, allegedly from the Libyan Coast Guard, abusing migrants by bringing them to shore, beating, robbing, and taking them to detention centres.

“The list of violations and abuses faced by migrants in Libya is as long as it is horrific. This is, quite simply, a human rights crisis affecting tens of thousands of people,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The report also urged Libyan officials to immediately release the most vulnerable migrants, with a view to urgently ending all arbitrary detentions; reduce the number of detention centres; ensure women were held separately from men; improve conditions of detention and protect detainees from torture and all other forms of abuse; and, in the medium-term, decriminalize irregular migration and adopt an asylum law.

In addition, “the report lays bare the suffering endured by these migrants who have experienced unimaginable abuse and, in some cases, fallen victim to the despicable trade in human lives,” stated High Commissioner Zeid, adding that the report “appeals to our compassion and our resolve that the rights of migrants should be fully protected and respected, whatever their status.”

Irregular migration was against the law in Libya, which was why migrants were being detained.

As a result, OHCHR urged the country to adopt a regular asylum law.

UNSMIL also said that it has received reports indicating that some Libyan State employees or local officials may have been involved in the smuggling and trafficking process. (SOURCE: UN).

UN Envoy Calls for Safe Passage to Allow Evacuations

Expressing deep concern that civilians remain in Ganfouda area of the Libyan city, Benghazi, despite a unilateral ceasefire announced by the Libyan National Army, the UN envoy for the country on 10 December 2016 called on the parties to provide another safe passage to allow for the evacuation of all civilians who wish to leave in a secure and dignified manner.


Martin Kobler. UN Photo/Manuel Elías

“Reports of shells being fired and civilians being prevented from leaving are extremely concerning,” said Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and the head of the UN Support Mission in the country (UNSMIL) in a news release.

“Earlier this week, I sent letters to both the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (BRSC) calling on them to urgently open a safe passage to enable the exit of civilians out of Ganfouda. The LNA announced a ceasefire and I welcomed it,” he added.

In the release, Kobler also reiterated that the LNA and the BRSC are responsible for the safety of the civilians in Ganfouda and reminded the parties to abide by international human rights and humanitarian laws, which explicitly prevent attacks of any kind on civilians and their use as human shields.

2016 Human Wrongs Watch

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