‘Unimaginable Horrors’ Faced by Migrants and Refugees in Libya, Gang Rape, Torture, Slavery, Killings

A UN investigation turned up “unimaginable horrors” experienced in Libya among migrants who sought to reach Europe through the country.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR said investigators gathered 1,300 first-hand accounts of the “terrible litany of violations and abuses committed by a range of state officials, armed groups, smugglers and traffickers against migrants and refugees.”

The “overwhelming majority of migrant and refugee women and older teenage girls” who passed through Libya reported being gang-raped by traffickers or witnessing others taken away to be abused.

People from Niger, Chad, Egypt, Sudan, Ghana and Nigeria comprise the bulk of migrants and refugees in Libya. “Women represent 9 percent of adult migrants and refugees, and children represent about 10 percent of the migrant and refugee population, with more than half of them being unaccompanied, including girls trafficked for sexual exploitation.”

Bodies of migrants and refugees bearing gunshot wounds, signs of torture and burns are frequently found in dumpsters, farms and the desert.

A 30-year-old woman from Côte d’Ivoire, who arrived in Libya in April 2017, was held captive for seven months, beaten and raped in Sabha and Sabratah. “… I saw with my own eyes three women dying. Our men [migrants] would have to then pick up the bodies and dump them in the desert…The same thing [rape] would happen in Sabratah campo. They [perpetrators] would force women to take off all their clothes, look at them and select some to rape. I left my country to search for a better life for me and my children; instead, I was tortured and raped.”

A Nigerian woman who had been returned home in December 2017 recounted her experience. “To be sold and forced to have sex with Arab or African men either to pay [for] the journey or to extract your money is a common thing to happen to you as a woman or a girl, all over the journey from day one in the desert until you depart Libya,”

Since 2017, nearly 30,000 migrants returned to Libya by the Coast Guard were placed in detention centres where thousands remain indefinitely. “The UN staff visiting 11 detention centres [in Libya], where thousands of migrants and refugees are being held, documented torture, ill-treatment, forced labour, and rape by the guards, and reported that women are often held in facilities without female guards, exacerbating the risk of sexual abuse and exploitation,” OHCHR said, continuing in the report. “Female detainees are often subjected to strip searches carried out or watched by male guards.”

“They drank water from the toilet tap. When menstruating, they had to tear rags from their clothes, as at most two sanitary pads were distributed monthly. Detainees reported frequent vomiting of blood and acute diarrhoea, amid inadequate access to medical treatment.” There were “consistent reports of rape and other forms of sexual violence committed at the Surman detention centre. Survivors identified among the perpetrators the person who was in the effective control of the centre.”

“Detainees were visibly traumatized and fearful about sharing information about their treatment. Nonetheless, several women confirmed being forcibly taken out of the detention centre at night to a house some 20-30 metres away. Refusals were met by beatings and threats at gunpoint.”



Photo: “Truck with Migrants” by EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0