Trapped in Libya, refugees are trafficked and worse

Thousands of migrants and refugees from Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere are stranded in overcrowded Libyan facilities, and threatened by a tuberculosis outbreak and civil conflict across the country.

According to Amnesty International, migrants and refugees in Libyan detention centers are routinely exposed to torture, extortion and rape.

In addition, during recent fighting, some detainees were wounded by stray bullets, while others were locked up without food or water as guards escaped rocket attacks.

Libya’s Department for Combating Illegal Migration currently holds 6,000 refugees indefinitely in detention.

Many of these people were deported to Libya after their boats were intercepted in the Mediterranean en route to Italy.

Detainees say that they were not given medication to combat the spread of tuberculosis in the Triq al-Sikka center.

One refugee-service agency said that its medical-care services are “overwhelmed.”

“The problem is not unmanageable, but Libya can’t or won’t handle it, and we need other countries, on a humanitarian basis, to provide help and provide asylum if needed, or at least to work with the Libyan authorities so that we can have more humane treatment of these people,” said Thomas Garofalo of the International Rescue Committee.

Compounding the health issues are the claims by former detainees that guards are selling detainees to smugglers.

Amnesty International last year accused the Libyan government of working with smugglers.

Earlier this month, the human-rights organization published findings showing how European Union policies have trapped thousands of refugees and migrants in Libyan detention centers, exacerbating a cycle of abuse.

One Amnesty official blamed “cruel policies” by European states that keep out refugees, and that have made thousands of men, women and children vulnerable to “horrific abuses with no way out.”

Sources: Al Jazeera, Amnesty International (advocacy group)

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