Rescued migrants tell of detention, beatings, slavery in Libya

Migrants who travel through Libya tell of detention, beatings and slavery in the North African country. (AFP)
Updated 19 May 2017
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Rescued migrants tell of detention, beatings, slavery in Libya

ABOARD RESCUE SHIP AQUARIUS: A day after reaching safety aboard a humanitarian ship, migrants on Friday told of arbitrary detention, slavery and beatings in Libya as Europe seeks to build up the Tripoli-based coast guard.
“Libya is crazy. They arrest us, the police ... They put us in some place ... two, three days no eat, no drink. They beat us,” said Alseer Issa Ibrahim, 28, from the Darfur region of Sudan.
Ibrahim is one of almost 600 people on the Aquarius, a rescue ship operated by Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee, now heading toward an Italian port.
Six years after the fall of strongman Muammar Qaddafi, Libya appears to be sliding deeper into lawlessness. Smugglers are packing record numbers of people onto unsafe boats, with sea arrivals to Italy up 35 percent so far this year. More than 1,300 have died.
John Osifo, a 29-year-old Nigerian, spent 11 months in Libya. He said he did not plan to go to Europe, but after a few months working at a car wash, a local man destroyed his passport and work permit, making him an irregular migrant, and he was forced into hard labor.
In Libya “they believe blacks are slaves. That is what they call us. When they want to beat us, they beat us with pipes,” he said, showing a scar on his left hand.
“They take us to jobs, force us to do hard labor without payment ... Sometimes they take you to a prison where you’ll be kept and beaten up,” he said, as the Aquarius’s crew served tea and bread to the migrants.
The European Union and Italy agreed in February to funnel millions of euros to the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli to help it fight human trafficking and operate migrant centers to be managed by UN agencies. Mainly because it is too dangerous, these centers have yet to be opened.
But the capacity of Tripoli’s coast guard is increasing. Humanitarian groups fear this will feed the lucrative smuggling business because migrants will be intercepted and taken back to Libya where they will be held in appalling government-controlled centers, only to try to make the crossing again at a later date.
On Friday MSF, one of the few aid agencies entering the government-controlled camps, said in a statement it had witnessed adult malnutrition, overcrowding, violence-related injuries and lack of basic hygiene.
“In the first three months of 2017, interruptions in food supply were observed in two detention centers with detainees going for days without any food,” MSF said. “As a result, MSF is treating adults suffering from malnutrition.”
After the Libyan coast guard stopped almost 600 migrants on Thursday, Italy’s embassy in Tripoli tweeted: “This is the right way forward.”
“We are always suffering in Libya from hunger, and the Libyan people hate us. They don’t look at us like people, they look at us like animals,” said Yagob Mobark Ibrahim, 21, from Sudan.


EU hits Venezuela vice president Delcy Rodriguez with sanctions: Statement

Updated 25 June 2018
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EU hits Venezuela vice president Delcy Rodriguez with sanctions: Statement

  • EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday formally approved travel bans and asset freezes
  • In January, Europe added seven senior Venezuelan officials including the interior minister to its sanctions blacklist

LUXEMBOURG: Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez was among 11 senior officials hit Monday by EU sanctions over irregularities in the reelection of President Nicolas Maduro, the bloc announced.
“The persons listed are responsible for human rights violations and for undermining democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela. The measures include a travel ban and an asset freeze,” the European Union said after its 28 foreign ministers backed the move at a meeting in Luxembourg.

After the 28 EU states pledged last month to "swiftly" punish Caracas with measures, EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday formally approved travel bans and asset freezes against the 11, who were to be named later in the official announcement.
The EU said last month that Maduro's re-election "lacked any credibility" and did not meet even "minimum international standards" for free and fair polls.
In January, Europe added seven senior Venezuelan officials including the interior minister to its sanctions blacklist, after in November enforcing an embargo on weapons and equipment that could be used for political repression.
Maduro won 68 percent of the vote in the May election, which was boycotted by the opposition and condemned as illegitimate by much of the international community.