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Amnesty report says Libyan refugees subject to violence when forced to return

By
Kyle Barnett
Libyans have been fleeing their country in droves, risking their lives to seek better living conditions in Europe. The International Organization for Migration says around 900 migrants have died this year in transit. File Photo by Javier Martin/EPA-EFE 
Libyans have been fleeing their country in droves, risking their lives to seek better living conditions in Europe. The International Organization for Migration says around 900 migrants have died this year in transit. File Photo by Javier Martin/EPA-EFE 

July 15 (UPI) -- Amnesty International released a report Thursday detailing alleged abuses Libyans are subjected to when being forcibly returned.

The 50-page report, titled "No One Will Look For You," focuses on refugees being forcibly returned to Libya after fleeing to Europe.

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The report found that those being held at detention centers within Libya faced systematic abuse, including rape.

"This horrifying report sheds new light on the suffering of people intercepted at sea and returned to Libya, where they are immediately funneled into arbitrary detention and systematically subjected to torture, sexual violence, forced labor and other exploitation with total impunity," Diana Eltahawy, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

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The report describes systematic rape of women in the camps by guards and withholding of necessary items, such as food, for sexual favors.

"Former detainees there said that guards raped women and some were coerced into sex in exchange for their release or for essentials such as clean water," the organization said in a statement.

Men and boys have also reported being subjected to sexual abuse, the report said.

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Pope Francis and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have advocated for the worst of Libya's facilities to be closed.

Instead, Libya is adding two more such detention camps while hundreds have gone missing from the existing camps. Eltahawy said the Libyan government is not taking the issue seriously.

"Meanwhile, Libyan authorities have rewarded those reasonably suspected of committing such violations with positions of power and higher ranks, meaning that we risk seeing the same horrors reproduced again and again," Eltahawy added.

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Amnesty is advocating for European powers to curb military assistance to Libya. Italy is scheduled to discuss the issue next week in parliament.

Thursday's report focused on the stories of 53 Libyan refugees who were detained. Of those, 49 were plucked directly from rafts in the sea, it said.

Through those individual stories, Amnesty found that detention centers in Libya are rife with abuse. In 2020, hundreds of refugees there were even directed to an informal detention center run by a militia.

Another infamous center, Tajoura, was closed in 2019 after 53 detainees died in an airstrike. That center was "notorious for torture and other ill-treatment," the report said.

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Amnesty also included information about Libyan children who have been coerced into military service.

Libyans have been fleeing the country in droves, risking their lives to seek better living conditions in Europe.

The International Organization for Migration maintained numbers showing around 900 migrants have died this year in transit. In early July, a boat sank off the coast of Tunisia, killing 43 refugees. In January, a boat with 265 Libyan refugees was rescued off the coast of Sicily.

The U.S. State Department recently noted that trafficking increased in the area during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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