A surge of African migrants has fled from war-torn areas into Libya, for a safe route into other parts of the world. But some leaked personal accounts and revelations by the Associated Press have brought their plight to the foray.
It is coming to light that the waves of migrants from across Africa who have flowed into Libya in recent years seeking passage across the Mediterranean to Europe have not found a safe route out till now. In fact, their movement has been effectively stopping, forcing them to live in dehumanizing conditions, leading to many dying of diseases.
One of the Eritrean migrants wrote to the Associated Press the following message, “Our life is worse and terrible from day to day.” He is among the 700 other migrants held in the detention center run by one of Libya’s militias out of a complex dominated by a hangar near the western town of Zintan.
They are being forced to live in unhygienic conditions and there is a lack of basic amenities, leave alone food and safe drinking water. Confirmed information from some in anonymity says that at least 22 migrants have died since September 2018 — a figure confirmed by United Nations and Doctors Without Borders aid workers — and that at least 100 migrants were sick with the disease, mainly tuberculosis. Some migrants said the center includes 100 minors who live side by side with adults.
“We need emergency evacuation from Zintan,” one told the AP. “We suffer physically, mentally and emotionally.”
Further reports confirm that most are not allowed out in the sun, deprived full meals and forced to share water. It seems aid agencies are at loggerheads with each other and no one is taking the onus of the condition of these people who are looking for a healthier and safer future elsewhere. Internal memos and emails have been obtained by the AP.
They apparently disclose how aid agencies are divided over conditions at the center, with one nonprofit working on behalf of the United Nations denying there was lack of food, even as it acknowledged it had not been able to see most of the migrants held there.
Migrants in the Zintan center and their advocates accused U.N. aid agencies of being slow to respond or forgetting them altogether. But the U.N refugee agency, or UNHCR, disputes that, saying the Libyan militias who run the facility have denied their workers access to all parts of it.
Migrants were encouraged into Libya under a European Council Policy brought into force by the European Union in June 2018, under which Libya became the main center for processing the refugee and asylum applications of those trying to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa into Europe.
These included, people intercepted at sea by the EU-trained and EU-equipped Libyan Coast Guard who were brought right back to the raging civil war in Libya, instead of being taken to Europe.
Most found themselves in locally run detention centers. Currently, there are 700,000 refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers currently in Libya. Of them, many have already died or gone missing. (The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has not released official numbers.) Others face physical torture, starvation, and sexual violence.
The politics of war in Syria, Libya, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, has forced those who want to live, to look for respite. However, those who are vying for power are doing so at the expense of the common’s man fundamental right to live a life of dignity.