Thousands of migrants arrested in Libyan crackdown held in ‘inhumane conditions’

Thousands of migrants arrested in Libyan crackdown held in ‘inhumane conditions’
Migrants look out of a barred door at a detention centre in Gharyan, Libya, Oct. 12, 2017. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 October 2021

Thousands of migrants arrested in Libyan crackdown held in ‘inhumane conditions’

Thousands of migrants arrested in Libyan crackdown held in ‘inhumane conditions’
  • Wave of arrests has targeted Europe-bound migrants released after capture by Libyan Coast Guard
  • EU-funded coast guard has detained more than 81,000 people since 2017, many later claimed to have suffered physical abuse

LONDON: More than 5,000 people have been arrested by Libyan authorities in the past week in a massive crackdown on migrants and refugees residing in Libya, with some detainees allegedly being subjected to severe physical and sexual abuse.

Many of those recently arrested were first captured and detained by the EU-supported Libyan Coast Guard and transported to migrant detention centers, where they were held in “inhumane conditions,” before being released back onto the streets of Libya.

Libyan authorities said the arrests of thousands from across the African continent — many of them fleeing war and persecution — are linked to illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

The EU has long worked with North African states including Libya and Morocco to prevent migrants from reaching Europe.

This form of cooperation negates the need for the bloc to process migrants in Europe, where laws and scrutiny of their treatment are more rigorous and where the political implications of mass inward migration are often negative.

Since 2017, more than 81,000 migrants have been intercepted at sea and returned to Libya by the country’s coastguard, which is trained and equipped by the EU and has also received assistance from the UK.

Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières said the number of people in the Libyan capital Tripoli’s detention centers has more than tripled since Monday.

“During the raids on their homes, many of those captured were reportedly subjected to severe physical violence, including sexual violence,” the charity said in a statement. One young migrant was killed and at least five others sustained gunshot wounds, according to the UN.

“We are seeing security forces take extreme measures to arbitrarily detain more vulnerable people in inhumane conditions in severely overcrowded facilities,” said Ellen van der Velden, MSF’s operations manager for Libya. “Entire families of migrants and refugees living in Tripoli have been captured, handcuffed and transported to various detention centers. In the process, people have been hurt and even killed, families have been split up and their homes have been reduced to piles of rubble.”

In one detention center, MSF said, more than 550 women — including some who are pregnant, children, and newborn babies were crammed into cells. Around 120 detainees shared a single toilet.

Men were forced to stand because of overcrowding, and hundreds of people were also held outside with no shelter or shade. Several people required urgent medical attention.

One Eritrean man who evaded arrest said he had made contact with friends who had been detained.

“There is no water, no food, no stuff for sleeping,” he said. “There were some who tried to escape but got caught and were beaten and those who made it were wounded. Others paid to be released but unfortunately they got caught in the streets and went back to prison again.

“More than 90 percent of all the migrants are arrested,” he added. “It’s like we are playing hide-and-seek with the police or other forces now.”

A report by an independent fact-finding mission commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council announced on Monday that it had found that “murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts committed against migrants (in Libya) form part of a systematic and widespread attack directed at this population, in furtherance of a state policy” which may amount to crimes against humanity.

“All migrants — men and women, boys and girls — are kept in harsh conditions, (and some of them) die. Some children are held with adults, placing them at high risk of abuse. Torture (such as electric shocks) and sexual violence (including rape and forced prostitution) are prevalent.”

Libya has become a hub for Europe-bound migrants and refugees from Africa since the country devolved into conflict following the end of the former leader Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in 2011.

People smuggling and other black market activities have rapidly expanded since the central authority collapsed and control of the state was seized by a plethora of militias competing for money and power.

A fragile peace agreed in 2020 between the country’s main fighting forces is currently holding, but the UN has warned that violence could yet break out again ahead of the national elections planned for December.


Biden weighs up returning Houthis to US terror list

Biden weighs up returning Houthis to US terror list
Updated 42 min 11 sec ago

Biden weighs up returning Houthis to US terror list

Biden weighs up returning Houthis to US terror list
  • US leader faces criticism over failure to address terrorist violence as he says it is 'not the time to give up' on nuclear talks with Iran

CHICAGO: US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that he is considering re-designating Yemen’s Houthi militia as an international terrorist organization days after the Iran-backed group killed three people in a drone strike in the UAE.
Marking his first full year in office with a two-hour press conference, Biden focused on his domestic efforts and the fight against COVID-19, but also touched on foreign policy issues, mostly addressing the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, and also taking questions on Iran and Yemen.
Weeks after taking office in 2021, Biden officially delisted the Houthi militia as a “foreign terrorist organization,” a designation put in place by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
The US leader has also worked to bring Iran back to the negotiating table over its nuclear weapons program.
Asked if he would redesignate the Houthis as a terrorist group, Biden replied: “It’s under consideration.”
Houthi rebels claimed credit for a cross-border drone strike on Monday that killed three migrant workers in the UAE.
Biden’s Special Envoy to Yemen, Tim Lenderking, was sent to the Gulf and London on Wednesday “to reinvigorate peace efforts in coordination with the UN, senior regional government officials and other international partners,” according to a statement from US State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“The special envoy and his team will press the parties to de-escalate militarily and participate fully in an inclusive UN-led peace process,” Price said.
Lenderking will also address “the urgent need to mitigate the dire humanitarian and economic crises facing Yemenis.”

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Price quoted UN data released last week that shows 16 million people in Yemen need aid totaling about $3.9 billion.
“It is imperative that donors, especially regional donors, provide additional funding, and that all parties to the conflict take steps to improve humanitarian access and address Yemen’s fuel crisis,” the UN said.
Biden was also asked if he was making progress with Iran in efforts to force the regime to adhere to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or nuclear deal.
“It is not time to give up. There is some progress to be made,” he replied.
However, the lengthy press conference was clearly intended to highlight Biden’s achievements since being sworn in as president one year ago on Jan. 20, 2021.
Political analyst Dalia Al-Aqidi said Biden’s press conference sounded more like a campaign speech, and appeared to be orchestrated to allow him to address his political talking points as Democrats and Republicans prepare for a midterm election battle for control for the House and Senate this year.
“Basically, we just saw the first draft of his presidential campaign pitch, and I expect that America will hear the same speech over and over while the country is suffering from a stalling economy and colossal inflation,” said Al-Aqidi, a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy.
She criticized Biden’s failure to address terrorist violence that resurfaced in Colleyville, Texas, this week when four members of a synagogue were held hostage until the gunman was killed by police.
The US leader confirmed he plans to run for re-election and will keep Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate. He also defended his role in the sudden US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Biden initially took questions from 11 reporters, who were on a list he held at the podium. Questions focused on the economy, mounting tensions with Russia over Ukraine, and growing polarization in the US. He acknowledged the need to get out of the White House and “speak directly” to the American people.
Halfway through the press conference, Biden accepted questions from other reporters who were sometimes openly critical of his performance.
The US leader insisted he has made significant progress easing the economic burden caused by the global pandemic, including creating 6 million jobs, reducing unemployment to 3.9 percent and getting 210 million Americans fully vaccinated.
Biden also claimed he is working to bring the country together, and blamed the failure to bridge the nation’s growing divide on Trump, citing private discussions he has had with several Republican senators who say they fear Trump will undermine their re-election if they support Biden’s agenda.


International apathy has emboldened Yemen’s Houthis, Saudi envoy tells UN

International apathy has emboldened Yemen’s Houthis, Saudi envoy tells UN
Updated 20 January 2022

International apathy has emboldened Yemen’s Houthis, Saudi envoy tells UN

International apathy has emboldened Yemen’s Houthis, Saudi envoy tells UN
  • Mohammed Abdulaziz Alateek also reaffirmed Kingdom’s support for people of Lebanon and urged authorities there to end ‘terrorist Hezbollah’s control of state’
  • He also pledged his country’s continuing support and commitment to the Palestinian cause, and to comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East

NEW YORK: The failure of the international community to take decisive action to address the terrorist activities of the Houthis in Yemen has emboldened the Iran-backed militia to attack the Yemeni people and threaten peace and security in the region and beyond, Saudi Arabia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN said on Wednesday.

Mohammed Abdulaziz Alateek told the Security Council that the Kingdom reserves the right to “take any necessary measure in line with international law” to respond to Houthi aggression. It came two days after a deadly attack on neighboring Abu Dhabi by the militia.

The envoy said authorities in the UAE have the full support of the Kingdom “as they address any threat to their stability and security,” and called on the international community “to confront the terrorist Houthi militias.”

The ministerial-level meeting was convened by Norway, which holds the presidency of the Security Council this month, to discuss the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

Saudi Arabia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN Mohammed Abdulaziz Alateek. (SPA)

Alateek said that Tehran provides support to the Houthis “day after day” and added: “These terrorist militias continue to disregard the aspirations of the Yemeni people and to threaten regional and international peace and security.

“A case in point is their violation and threats to international navigation and their use of civilian facilities and Yemeni ports to undermine regional security and attack civilians in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”

On Monday this week, three people were killed and six injured by a drone strike on a key oil facility in the Emirati capital, and a separate fire was sparked at Abu Dhabi’s international airport. The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attacks, which immediately drew condemnation worldwide.

Last Friday the Security Council unanimously condemned another hostile Houthi act, the seizure on Jan. 3 of the UAE-flagged ship Rwabee in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen and the detention of its crew.

In a statement drafted by the UK, council members demanded the immediate release of the vessel and those on board, and urged the Houthis to guarantee the safety and well-being of the crew.

Civilian targets in Saudi Arabia have also repeatedly come under attack from Houthi-launched drone and missile strikes.

Highlighting the Saudi peace initiative to end the conflict in Yemen, Alateek called on the international community and the Security Council to “take all necessary measures against these terrorist militias that obstruct peace and any attempt to reach a political solution sponsored by the UN in line with resolution 2216, the Gulf Initiative and the outcome of the National Dialogue.”

Turning to the crisis in Lebanon, Alateek reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s support for the people of the country and urged Lebanese authorities to prioritize “their people, to meet their aspirations for security, stability and well-being, and to end terrorist Hezbollah’s control of the state.”

Regarding the Palestinian question, Alateek said Riyadh remains committed to ending the occupation, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and ensuring Palestinian refugees can return home.

“We stress that comprehensive and lasting peace in the middle East is a strategic choice to end one of the most protracted conflicts in our modern history, based on the two-state solution and international terms of reference, as well as the Arab peace initiative of 2022,” he said.

“All these initiatives call for the establishment of the Palestinian state along the borders of June 4, 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the return of refugees, and an end to the Israeli occupation of all Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan and Lebanese territories.”

Alateek accused Israel of continuing “to violate international laws and norms in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, committing the most heinous forms of injustice and aggression against the Palestinian people.”

He called on the Security Council and the wider international community to assume their responsibilities toward Palestinians by “ensuring justice,

achieving the aspirations of the Palestinian people to establish their own independent state as guaranteed in international laws, and deal firmly with the Israeli violations of international law and relevant UN resolutions.”


European countries urge Israel to stop construction in East Jerusalem

European countries urge Israel to stop construction in East Jerusalem
Updated 20 January 2022

European countries urge Israel to stop construction in East Jerusalem

European countries urge Israel to stop construction in East Jerusalem
  • Earlier in the month, Israeli authorities approved plans for the construction of around 3,500 homes in occupied East Jerusalem

PARIS: The foreign ministries of France, Germany, Italy and Spain urged Israeli authorities on Wednesday evening to stop the construction of new housing units in East Jerusalem.
Earlier in the month, Israeli authorities approved plans for the construction of around 3,500 homes in occupied East Jerusalem, nearly half of which are to be built in the controversial areas of Givat Hamatos and Har Homa.
In a statement, the European countries said that the hundreds of new buildings would “constitute an additional obstacle to the two-state solution,” referring to international peace efforts to create a state for Palestinians.
They said that building in this area would further disconnect the West Bank from East Jerusalem and that these settlements are a violation of international law.
The Israeli ministry of foreign affairs did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Israel captured East Jerusalem including the Old City in a 1967 war and later annexed it, a move not recognized internationally.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem for the capital of a state they seek in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which abuts the city, and the Gaza Strip. Israel views the entire city as its indivisible capital.
Most world powers deem the Israeli settlements illegal for taking in territory where Palestinians seek statehood.
The four countries also expressed concern about the evictions and demolitions in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where residents say they are being displaced.
Earlier Wednesday, Israeli police evicted a Palestinian family from their East Jerusalem home — which they say they had lived in for decades — before a digger tore down the property, prompting criticism from rights activists and diplomats.


Calls grow to restore Houthis to US list of terrorist groups

Calls grow to restore Houthis to US list of terrorist groups
Updated 20 January 2022

Calls grow to restore Houthis to US list of terrorist groups

Calls grow to restore Houthis to US list of terrorist groups
  • World must deal with their ‘criminal acts,’ Yemen’s prime minister says

AL-MUKALLA: Demands grew on Wednesday for the US to restore the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen to its list of designated terrorist groups.

The government in Yemen joined calls for the reinstatement by authorities in the UAE after Monday’s Houthi drone attack on Abu Dhabi in which three people died.

“These criminal acts require designating the Houthis as a terrorist organization,” Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed said. “The international community has to deal with this group.

More pressure needs to be applied to stop these terrorist crimes that threaten regional and international peace and stability.”

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated the Houthis a foreign terrorist organization on Jan. 16, 2021, a few hours before the Trump administration handed the White House over to Joe Biden.

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The new administration quickly reversed the move, paused a ban on financial transactions in Houthi-controlled areas on Jan. 25, and fully revoked the terrorist designation on Feb. 16.

The revocation was followed by a barrage of drone and missile attacks by the Houthis targeting civilians and energy infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.

On the ground, the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy escalated airstrikes on Houthi military sites and reinforcements on Wednesday as government troops repelled the militia’s attempts to seize control of new areas.

"We are carrying out a large-scale military operation to paralyze the Houthis' capabilities in a number of governorates," the Coalition said in a statement carried by El-Akhbariyah TV. "We are monitoring the terrorist leaders responsible for targeting civilians.|"

Earlier on Wednesday, Coalition warplanes destroyed military vehicles carrying Houthi fighters in Marib and struck Houthi gatherings and locations in the province. Thick smoke and large balls of fire billowed over targeted locations in southwestern Sanaa, including Attan Mountain, which hosts a ballistic missile depot.

The coalition said it had carried out 19 airstrikes in Marib that killed 90 Houthis and destroyed 11 of their vehicles.There was heavy fighting between government troops and the Houthis south of the strategic central city of Marib. Rashad Al-Mekhlafi, a military official at Yemen’s Armed Forces Guidance Department, told Arab News the Houthis had mounted several counterattacks on government troops around Al-Balaq Al-Sharqi mountain range in a bid to break a siege on pockets of their fighters on the strategic mountain.

The Houthis failed to achieve their goal of reaching the mountain and were forced into stopping their attacks after suffering heavy casualties. “They have to either surrender or die,” Al-Mekhlafi said. Loyalist Giants Brigades troops also engaged in heavy fighting with the Houthis south of Marib.

In the western governorate of Hodeidah, Houthi weapons storages at the naval forces camp were also targeted, the Coalition said early Thursday.

It said the port was being used by the Houthis as a military barracks to threaten regional and international security. Houthis reportedly transferred the weapons from the port to the military camp under commercial cover.

Houthis had also been accused of engaging in sea piracy, attacking civilian ships passing along the Red Sea.

The US special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, began visits on Wednesday to the Gulf states and the UK. “The special envoy and his team will press the parties to deescalate militarily and...participate fully in an inclusive UN-led peace process,” the State Department said.


US envoy to Yemen on GCC tour to reactivate peace efforts

US envoy to Yemen on GCC tour to reactivate peace efforts
Updated 20 January 2022

US envoy to Yemen on GCC tour to reactivate peace efforts

US envoy to Yemen on GCC tour to reactivate peace efforts

RIYADH: US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking held talks with the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council on Wednesday in Saudi Arabia to discuss efforts to reach a political solution to the Yemeni crisis.
Lenderking is on a tour of Gulf states and the British capital, London, to reinvigorate peace efforts in coordination with the UN, senior regional government officials, and other international partners, the State Department said.
During the meeting, GCC Secretary-General Nayef Al-Hajraf stressed the importance of applying international pressure on the Iran-backed Houthi militia to end its terrorist activities and seriously engage in the Yemen peace process.
The two sides discussed regional and international efforts to reach the political solution sought by the bloc, in accordance with the GCC initiative and its Executive Mechanism, the outcomes of the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference and UN Security Council resolution 2216.
Al-Hajraf praised Washington’s significant role and the efforts of the US envoy to end the Yemeni war, and the humanitarian and development assistance it provides to the Yemeni people.
He also strongly condemned the continued targeting of civilians and civilian targets with missiles and drones in Saudi Arabia, as well as the cowardly terrorist attack that targeted Abu Dhabi International Airport on Monday, killing three people.
Al-Hajraf said it constitutes a terrorist act, a flagrant violation of international law and a threat to regional security and stability.
During his tour, Lenderking “will press the parties to de-escalate militarily and seize the new year to participate fully in an inclusive UN-led peace process,” the State Department said.
He will also call on donors to provide additional funding to mitigate the dire humanitarian and economic crises facing Yemenis, after the UN had said that around $3.9 billion is needed this year to help millions of people in the war-torn country.