Over 100 migrants escape from Libya trafficking camp

Migrants returning from Niger after fleeing Libya. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 26 May 2018
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Over 100 migrants escape from Libya trafficking camp

  • The migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia were being held hostage and tortured

TRIPOLI: More than 100 east African migrants escaped from a camp in the Libyan town of Bani Walid where they were being held hostage and tortured, international agencies and local sources said Saturday.
The migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia fled on Wednesday night to a mosque in the town where they were taken in by local associations and residents.
The hospital in Bani Walid said around 20 of them were being treated for injuries from torture.
According to Doctors Without Borders (MSF), in a statement quoting witnesses, 15 migrants were killed and 25 injured during the escape, but there was no immediate confirmation from local sources.
Some of those who escaped, mostly adolescents, told MSF rescue workers that they had been held by people traffickers for up to three years.
The medical charity said seven of those hospitalized had serious gunshot wounds.
“This is another example of the ongoing horrors suffered by many migrants and refugees while transiting through Libya,” MSF said, adding that “kidnapping for ransom remains a thriving business.”
Bani Walid, 170 kilometers (110 miles) southeast of the Libyan capital Tripoli, is a transit point for migrants aiming to reach Europe by boat from the coast further north.
People traffickers and kidnappers run around 20 detention centers in the town, telephoning the migrants’ families to deliver ransom demands.
Since the 2011 fall and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has become a key launchpad for migrants making desperate bids to reach Europe.
The conflict-riven country is regularly singled out for the exploitation and ill-treatment of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.
SOS MEDITERRANEE, a humanitarian group, called Saturday for more search-and-rescue vessels to be deployed due to rising migrant numbers.
“In the last two days, more than 1,500 people have attempted the dangerous crossing to escape violence and extortion in Libya,” it said.
“This shows, once again, that the presence of dedicated and well-equipped search-and-rescue ships is absolutely necessary if we are to prevent more deaths in the Mediterranean,” said Sophie Beau, co-founder of the European NGO.


Field fires in Syria's Hasakeh kill 10: monitor

Updated 16 June 2019
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Field fires in Syria's Hasakeh kill 10: monitor

  • Civilians and SDF forces are among the dead
  • Some people are claiming the fires were set on purpose

]QAMISHLI: Fires engulfing vital wheat fields across Syria’s northeast have killed at least 10 people, a war monitor said Sunday, as Kurdish authorities claim the blazes were set deliberately.
Kurdish authorities and the Damascus regime are competing to buy up this year’s harvest as fires — some claimed by the Daesh group — continue to scorch crops in the country’s breadbasket.
The victims included civilians and members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces who died while trying to extinguish the blazes since Saturday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The fires in the Kurdish-majority province of Hasakah also wounded another five people, according to a spokesman for the Kurdish Red Crescent.
“The victims were trying to douse the blaze but they were trapped by the fire,” Kamal Derbas said.
Kurdish officials have called on the US-led coalition to help extinguish blazes in the cereal and oil-rich region under their control.
“The largest fires have ravaged up to 350,000 hectares of land,” head of the Kurdish agriculture authority Salman Baroudo told AFP.
He claimed the fires were “deliberate,” saying they serve to “stir up strife between area residents and undermine the Kurdish administration” in the country’s northeast.
He did not specify who he believed was behind the blazes.
The official state news agency SANA on Saturday blamed the field fires in Hasakah on Kurdish-led forces.
It said they deliberately sparked a blaze to prevent local farmers from selling their crops to the government.
Analysts say wheat will be key to ensuring affordable bread prices and keeping the peace in various parts of the country in the coming period.
Farmers have separately blamed the fires on revenge attacks, sparks from low-quality fuel, and even carelessness.
SANA said Saturday that other field fires in the northwestern countryside of Hama province were sparked by jihadist artillery attacks.
Clashes in the area on Saturday between government forces and militants left dozens of combatants dead, including 26 pro-regime fighters, the Observatory said.
More than 370,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war since it erupted in 2011 with a violent crackdown on anti-government protests.