Human abuse and trafficking exposed

Tunisian border guards rounded up migrants and handed them over to their counterparts in Libya where they faced forced labor, extortion, torture and murder, according to a confidential UN rights report of the man consulted by Reuters. The two countries are key partners in the European Union’s efforts to stem the flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa to Southern Europe.

Hundreds of migrants in Tunisia were caught in a wave of arrests and expulsions to Libya during the second half of last year, according to the briefing dated January 23. It is based on interviews with 18 former detainees as well as photographic and video evidence. of torture in one of the establishments. Tarek Lamloum, a Libyan human rights expert, said such transfers took place in early May. About 2,000 migrants detained by Tunisia have been handed over to Libyans this year, he said, citing interviews with more than 30 migrants.

The UN briefing, which has not been previously reported, was shared with diplomats in the region. “Collective expulsions from Tunisia to Libya and the resulting arbitrary detention of migrants fuel extortion rackets and cycles of abuse, which are already widespread human rights problems in Libya,” the report said. UN briefing document.

Libyan officials were demanding thousands of dollars in exchange for the release of some migrants, the statement said. “The situation serves the interests of those who prey on vulnerable people, including human traffickers,” the text adds.

Neither Libyan nor Tunisian authorities responded to requests for comment on the UN briefing. A spokesman for the U.N. mission in Libya said he could not comment. On April 16, Abdoulaye Bathily, then a senior UN official in Libya, said he was “deeply concerned about the dire situation of migrants and refugees in Libya, who suffer human rights violations throughout the migration process.” .

The European Union announced last year that it would spend 800 million euros until 2024 in North Africa to stem the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean. Immigration was a major concern among voters in last week’s European elections, which saw far-right parties make gains. In the first four months of this year, migrant arrivals to Europe via the central Mediterranean fell by more than 60% compared to the same period in 2023. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on June 4 that this decline was “above all” due to aid from Tunisia and Libya.

Rights groups, however, say the EU’s policy of handing over immigration control to third countries in exchange for aid leads to abuses and fails to address underlying problems. In May, Tunisian President Kais Saied said hundreds of people were arriving every day and his country was coordinating migrant returns with its neighbors. The government has said in the past that it respects human rights. Libyan authorities say they are working with their neighbors to resolve migration issues.

Reuters was unable to independently verify accounts of abuse at the U.N. briefing. A UN fact-finding mission concluded last year that crimes against humanity had been committed against migrants in Libya in some detention centers run by EU-backed units.

A European Commission spokesperson did not respond to questions sent by Reuters. BURNED ALIVE, SHOT

The latest UN report said there was a pattern of Tunisian border authorities coordinating with their Libyan counterparts to transfer migrants to the Al-Assa or Nalout detention centers, just on the other side. side of the Libyan border. Migrants are detained for periods ranging from a few days to several weeks before being transferred to the Bir al-Ghanam detention center, closer to Tripoli, the statement said.

The facilities are managed by the Libyan Department for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM) and the Libyan Coast Guard. The U.N. report says DCIM continually denied U.N. officials access to sites.

Migrants interviewed at the UN briefing came from Palestine, Syria, Sudan and South Sudan. Obtaining information from African migrants was more difficult because they were deported and communicating with them was more complicated. Three of the migrants interviewed showed scars and signs of torture, according to the statement.

The January UN briefing described conditions in al-Assa and Bir al-Ghanam as “abhorrent”. “Hundreds of detainees were crammed into hangars and cells, often with only one functioning toilet, without sanitation or ventilation,” the statement said.

In Bir al-Ghana, authorities reportedly extorted migrants between $2,500 and $4,000 for their release, depending on their nationality. In central Al-Assa, border guards burned a Sudanese alive and shot another detainee for unknown reasons, witnesses told the UN, according to the January press briefing.

Former detainees identified human traffickers among the border guards who worked there, the statement added. “The current approach to migration and border management is not working,” the January statement said, calling on Libya to decriminalize migrants who enter the country illegally and for all international support for border management to be borders respect human rights.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)