Today, Monday, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya expressed its concern about what it described as the “arbitrary detention” of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers, calling for stopping these measures and treating migrants with “dignity and humanity.”
The mission said in a statement that it was concerned about the “mass arbitrary detention of migrants and asylum seekers, as the Libyan authorities arrested thousands of men, women and children from the streets and from their homes, or following raids on alleged camps and warehouses of (human) traffickers.”
This campaign of arrests was accompanied – according to the UN mission – with “an alarming increase in hate speech and racist rhetoric against foreigners on the Internet and in the media.”
The UN mission also called on the Libyan authorities to “stop these measures and treat migrants with dignity and humanity, in line with their international obligations.” And she considered that those authorities should grant UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations unimpeded access to “detainees who need urgent protection.”
Many of these migrants, including pregnant women and children, are held in unsanitary conditions. Thousands more collectively, including migrants who entered Libya legally, are being expelled without due process or scrutiny, according to the statement.
The security services, in western and eastern Libya, have launched massive campaigns to arrest migrants in the country.
Local media carried video clips showing the arrest of large numbers of migrants in the suburbs of the capital, Tripoli, and in Tobruk (east), where they were taken to government detention centers.
According to official accounts of the Agency for Combating Illegal Immigration, hundreds of Africans were deported to their countries via flights from Tripoli.
Also, video clips – whose authenticity could not be verified – showed that the security authorities in eastern Libya, at the beginning of this month, transferred about a thousand Egyptian immigrants to the common land borders, through the Mosaed crossing.
More than 7,000 migrants were returned to Libya, while the fate of 368 remained unaccounted for, and more than 600 migrants drowned off the Libyan coast, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Despite the insecurity in Libya – which is witnessing a political struggle over power – the country includes about half a million immigrants, and some seek to travel to Europe, and others to work in the economic fields that are based on oil.
Most of the migrants sneak across the Libyan desert borders, especially from Sudan, Chad, Niger and Egypt.
The United Nations says that migrants are detained in an “arbitrary” manner and are often subjected to “killings, enforced disappearances, torture or slavery, sexual violence, rape and other inhumane acts”.
The UN mission said in a report published on April 2, “The smuggling of migrants, their enslavement, forced labour, imprisonment and extortion generate large revenues for individuals, groups and state institutions.”
At the time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of National Unity and Parliament in Libya denounced, in two separate statements, what was mentioned in the UN report. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the UN mission to “submit documented testimonies and accurate data on the number of immigrant victims of violence or sexual slavery to the Libyan Attorney General’s office.”
While the House of Representatives Interior Committee expressed its dissatisfaction with what was stated in the UN report, considering it “biased, lack of objectivity, and deliberately distorting Libya’s image and holding it responsible for the crisis of migration flows.”
There was no immediate comment from the Libyan authorities on the UN mission’s statement, but the authorities always confirm that they do not resort to violence and that all migrants receive the necessary services and care for them in detention centers.
The Prime Minister of the unity government, Abdul Hamid al-Dabaiba, and retired Major General Khalifa Haftar, recently traveled to Rome, as Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni seeks to limit the crossing of migrants into her country.
And in eastern Libya, the authorities said today that they had detained 20 citizens from Bangladesh on a boat while they were trying to cross “illegally” to Italy, noting that it had taken all legal measures against them.