Libya forces may be colluding with migrant smugglers: UN report

Members of the Libyan Special Forces, loyal to the country's east strongman Khalifa Haftar, patrol the streets in the eastern city of Benghazi on September 19, 2017, in a bid to assist local security forces in their mission.
Updated 06 February 2018
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Libya forces may be colluding with migrant smugglers: UN report

UNITED NATIONS: Human trafficking is on the rise in Libya, according to a report by a UN panel of experts which found that Libyan forces may be helping rebel groups tighten their control of smuggling routes.
The confidential report sent to the UN Security Council also said the Daesh group is seeking to join migrant smugglers in southern Libya after it was pushed out of Sirte in 2016.
“Human trafficking is on the rise in Libya, resulting in major human rights violations,” said the 157-page report by the panel of experts, seen by AFP on Monday.
The panel raised concern “over the possible use of state facilities and state funds by armed groups and traffickers to enhance their control of migration routes.”
Libya has long been a transit hub for migrants, but smugglers have stepped up their lucrative business in the years that followed the 2011 ouster of Muammar Qaddafi.
The fate of migrants has come under intense security since film footage emerged last year of Africans auctioned off as slaves in Libya, drawing outrage from African governments.
The report cited accounts from Eritrean migrants who were arrested in 2016 in Tripoli by agents of a special force affiliated to Libya’s interior ministry who handed them over to migrant smugglers “against payment.”
Four Bangladeshi migrants arrested by the Special Deterrence Force (SDF) in Tripoli were held in a government detention center in 2015 even though they held valid work visas.
The migrants paid $300 US each to the SDF and were sent to another Libyan city where they were loaded on boats for Europe “against their will,” the report said.
“The panel is assessing whether the SDF’s leadership was aware of collusion and trafficking being conducted within its ranks,” said the report.
The UN-backed authorities in Libya have set up a department to combat illegal migration (DCIM) which is responsible for 24 detention centers and a staff of 5,000.
“According to international agencies, the DCIM has no control over its detention centers,” said the report.
A minister of the UN-backed government of national unity admitted to the panel that “the armed groups are stronger than the authorities in handling the flow of migrants.”
The panel found that Daesh cells “continue to operate in central and southern Libya” despite their defeat in Sirte.
Mostly comprised of foreign fighters, Daesh has recently been trying to re-establish a foothold further south, sending envoys with “large quantities of cash” to develop contacts, said the report.
The “emissaries also tried to link up with smuggling groups, offering protection and seeking long-term sources of financing,” it said.
Despite international backing, the government in Tripoli has been unable to assert its authority in the east, where a rival group is refusing to recognize the UN-backed administration.
The report raised questions about “diversion of public funds” through fuel smuggling and letters of credit in the oil-rich country.
“A political solution in Libya remains out of reach in the near future,” said the report. “Military dynamics in Libya and conflicting regional agendas show a lack of commitment to a peaceful solution.”


Tunisian police and protesters clash after death at police station

Policemen stand guard in Tunis. (AFP)
Updated 17 February 2019
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Tunisian police and protesters clash after death at police station

  • Tunisian activists say abuses by security forces have continued, albeit at a lower rate, since the 2011 revolution that overthrew the regime of President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali

TUNIS: Police in Tunisia fired tear gas on Saturday to disperse demonstrators who protested after a young man died inside a police station near the coastal resort of Hammamet, witnesses said.
The young man was arrested on Friday after a fight between groups of youths in the town of Barraket Essahel, 60 km (37 miles) southeast of the capital Tunis, according to locals. While it was not immediately clear how he died, demonstrators blamed the security forces.
In a statement, the Interior Ministry said the young man had fainted after reaching the police station and died despite officers’ efforts to revive him. It said a judge had ordered an investigation.
Police in Barraket Essahel were not immediately available to comment.
Tunisian activists say abuses by security forces have continued, albeit at a lower rate, since the 2011 revolution that overthrew the regime of President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.