(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
A recent report released by the United Nations said that Libya’s fragile security and justice system has put refugees traveling through Libya to get to Europe in grave danger.
The UN also called on the Libyan Government to act with urgency to rectify the situation and reform the detention centres where some refugees are being kept.
The report mentioned that refugees going through Libya are being taken advantage of by smugglers or rogue gangs and militias who have been reported to be raping and killing refugees as well as selling them into slavery, according to the UN report.
Zeid Ra‘ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said, “This is, quite simply, a human rights crisis affecting tens of thousands of people.”
Since January, over 168,000 refugees crossed the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy. Most of the 168,000 refugees are from sub-saharan Africa.
In their attempt to cross the Mediterranean, many refugees are detained and kept in government-run warehouses that have a capacity for about 7,000 people at a time.
Many of the refugees that have been detained in the warehouses suffer from malnutrition, according to the UN report by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN Human Rights Office.
The guards at the detention centres have also exploited the vulnerability of the refugees and would sometimes hold refugees hostage until their family sends ransom. Hostages are sometimes killed or tortured if the guards don’t receive the money.
The UN report also mentioned that some guards would follow the practices of the gangs and militias by raping, enslaving and beating the refugees.
The UN report also mentioned that come refugees have been taken to unofficial detention centres that are referred to as “connection houses”, where the smugglers would keep them as prisoners for sometime.
The UN said it has received information from credible sources claiming that government officials in Libya are actively participating in the smuggling business.
“The breakdown in the justice system has led to a state of impunity, in which armed groups, criminal gangs, smugglers and traffickers control the flow of migrants through the country,” the report said.
The report also emphasized that all women and child refugees should be released from captivity and all unofficial detention centers need to be closed.