Transit and ‘torture’: Rescued migrants recount Libya horrors

Transit and ‘torture’: Rescued migrants recount Libya horrors
Libyan security forces accompany migrants whose boat was intercepted off the coast trying to illegally sail the Mediterranean, into a reception center near Tripoli. (AFP)
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Updated 03 May 2022

Transit and ‘torture’: Rescued migrants recount Libya horrors

Transit and ‘torture’: Rescued migrants recount Libya horrors
  • Tens of thousands of migrants o attempt the dangerous and often deadly crossing from Libya to Italy every year

TRIPOLI: On a medical ship off the Italian coast, rescued migrants are coloring in a map of Africa, where many started their perilous journeys toward Europe.

The countries are brightly colored in yellow, green, purple and red. Libya however, a common transit country from sub-Saharan Africa into Italy, is black.

For many of the migrants, the country evokes painful memories: Abuse, torture and trafficking.

Libya has been singled out as a dangerous country for migrants, and a UN report last year revealed “crimes against humanity” inflicted on the most vulnerable.

For some aboard the Geo Barents ship run by medical charity Doctors Without Borders, the dangers are all too familiar.

“I was tied up, beaten, electrocuted,” said 25-year-old Eritrean refugee John, who gave only one name.

He explained how he fled authoritarian Eritrea in 2018, crossing through Ethiopia and Sudan before arriving in the southeastern Libyan city of Al Kufra four years ago.

“I was abducted from Al Kufra and sold to traffickers. And then to others,” he said.

He eventually escaped, boarding a dinghy headed for Italy, from which he was rescued in April by the Geo Barents.

He like others has received medical care on board the ship, where migrants also spend time doing activities like the map coloring exercise.

John colors Libya in black to signify the pain he experienced during his time there.

“There is no government in this country,” he said. “No laws.”

John is one of the tens of thousands of migrants who attempt the dangerous and often deadly crossing from Libya to Italy every year. More than 31,000 made the journey by sea last year, according to UN figures.

Many stream to Libya from elsewhere in Africa, boarding precarious vessels to cross the Mediterranean toward Italy.

AFP could not independently verify details of John’s account, but MSF doctors on the Geo Barents say many migrants arrive with chilling reminders of their time in Libya.

“We see a lot of them with actual physical evidence of violence, injuries that cause long-term problems,” said MSF doctor Mohammed Fadlalla.

“We commonly see bullet wounds, burns, evidence of electrocution, lots of beatings.”

Many migrants land in the hands of traffickers in Libya who demand hefty sums in exchange for their freedom. Attempts to escape can be a death sentence.

The Geo Barents helps those lucky enough to flee, trawling the waters of the central Mediterranean near Italy and Libya in search of migrant boats.

It stops in Italian or international waters — never Libyan waters — and takes in migrants in need, sometimes for as long as two weeks, before they are sent to Italy.

Fadlalla said medics on the ship often use scars or bruises to piece together what happened to the migrants — a kaleidoscope of trauma used to compile accounts of human rights violations.

Others need extensive mental and emotional support.

“A lot of these survivors who have suffered this torture have psychological difficulties as well,” said Fadlalla.

“Fear, difficulty sleeping, flashbacks, anxiety, depression.”

Libya has gained a notorious reputation for migrants on the dangerous route to Europe.

A UN fact-finding mission last year found some of the abuses faced by migrants there could be classified as “crimes against humanity.”

“Violations against migrants are committed on a large scale by state and non-state actors, with a high level of organization and with the encouragement of the state,” one of the UN experts, Chaloka Beyani, wrote.

Lawyer Jelia Sane, who specializes in refugee law and human rights, condemned European governments for intercepting migrant boats coming from Libya, urging them to offer safe and legal routes.

“The evidence of the plight of refugees and migrants in Libya can no longer be ignored,” said Sane, from London’s Doughty Street Chambers.

And for those who have been tortured, access to “full rehabilitation services, as required by international law,” should be offered, she said.

Senegalese migrant Eladj Ndiaye still bears the evidence of such abuse.

The 19-year-old has scars on his scalp and under his lip from when he was beaten with a glass bottle by his captors. They held him for several weeks in Libya, he said.

“Everywhere in Libya you are robbed, you are beaten,” he added.

Despite the known risks — and mounting evidence of abuses — migrants continue to trek toward Europe.

Eritrean refugee John knew what he could face, but went anyway.

“We know it’s dangerous. But we want to join Italy,” he said.


Pressure mounts on Houthis to lift Taiz siege

Yemeni pro-government forces deploy on the road linking the districts of Hays and Al-Jarrahi on April 28, 2022. (AFP)
Yemeni pro-government forces deploy on the road linking the districts of Hays and Al-Jarrahi on April 28, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 11 sec ago

Pressure mounts on Houthis to lift Taiz siege

Yemeni pro-government forces deploy on the road linking the districts of Hays and Al-Jarrahi on April 28, 2022. (AFP)
  • On April 7, the Yemeni government sent a list of four participants for the meeting, according to the UN Yemen’s office, almost three days after UN envoys asked both sides to nominate their negotiators

AL-MUKALLA: Iran-backed Houthis have named their representatives on a joint committee that will work to reopen roads in Taiz and other provinces, raising hopes of an end to the militants’ siege of the strategic city, a Yemeni government official said.

After weeks of delays, the Houthis sent a list of candidates for the committee to the office of the UN Yemen envoy, according to deputy head of the Yemeni government delegation on Taiz, Maj. Mohammed Abdullah Al-Mahmoudi.

The move comes as the militia faces growing pressure at home and abroad to end its eight-year siege of Yemen’s third-largest city.

Under the UN-brokered truce that came into effect on April 2, warring factions were expected to stop hostilities on all fronts, allow commercial flights to operate out of Sanaa airport, permit fuel ships to enter Hodeidah seaport, and nominate candidates for a joint committee to discuss the reopening of roads in Taiz and other provinces.

On April 7, the Yemeni government sent a list of four participants for the meeting, according to the UN Yemen’s office, almost three days after UN envoys asked both sides to nominate their negotiators.

The Houthis have been accused of failing to take the lifting of the blockade seriously, as they delayed naming representatives and kept up attacks on residents in the city.

Al-Mahmoudi told Arab News on Saturday that the Houthi delegation includes Yahyia Al-Razami, Hussein Dhaif, Mohammed Al-Mahtouri and Shukari Mahyoub.

“They are intelligence officers,” he said, adding that the committee might meet in the Jordanian capital Amman or elsewhere this week.

Al-Mahmoudi is joined on the government team by Abdul Kareem Shaiban, Abdul Aziz Al-Majeedi and Ali Al-Ajaar.

“We have been told to get ready for the meeting,” he said.

Pressure has increased on the Houthis to lift the siege of Taiz as the Yemeni government puts into place its commitments under the truce, including allowing about 12 fuel ships to enter Hodeidah seaport, facilitating the departure of two commercial flights from Sanaa airport, and naming its representatives in talks over the future of the city.

In a rare challenge to the militants, hundreds of people gathered for Friday prayers near a closed road on the eastern outskirts of the besieged city, despite the risk of coming under fire from Houthi snipers.

After the prayers, people raised posters and chanted slogans that called for roads to be reopened and an end to the siege.

Abdul Jabar Noman, an activist, told Arab News that many people had died on rugged and dangerous roads while seeking to avoid Houthi checkpoints around the city.

Daily protests are aimed at highlighting residents’ suffering under the blockade, he said.

“Lifting the siege will help people to move between cities easily, bring down prices of basic commodities, and fuel will be sold at the official price,” he said.

Abroad, Saudi, Yemeni and Western diplomats and officials are also increasing pressure on the Houthis to lift the blockade and join efforts to end the war.  

Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of defense, demanded the world, mainly the UN, order the Houthis to lift the siege, deposit revenues from Hodeidah port into the central bank, and comply with peace initiatives.

After meeting Timothy Lenderking, US special envoy for Yemen, in Washington, Prince Khalid tweeted: “Although the momentum of the truce remains high, I reaffirmed the need for the United Nations and the international community to pressure the Houthis into reopening the roads of Taiz, deposit revenues of the Hodeidah port, and engage with peace proposals.”

Ahmed Awadh bin Mubarak, Yemen’s foreign minister, met with Brett McGurk, the White House coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa, in Washington, where he called for global pressure on the Houthis to respect the truce and reopen roads in Taiz.

“I stressed our appreciation for the US and the need to pressure the #Houthis to adhere to the #truce and end #Taiz siege,” the Yemeni minister tweeted.

The Yemeni Embassy in Washington accused the Houthis of using the blockade as a pressure tactic, adding that the siege has isolated thousands of Taiz residents from the rest of Yemen.

“Every day, hundreds of thousands of people in the third-largest city in Yemen —  #Taiz — feel like they are boxed in a besieged city since 2015. A city that is cut off from the rest of Yemen by the #Houthis only to be used as a political bargaining chip,” the embassy tweeted.


Turkey tightens foreign citizenship investment from June

A general view of residential and commercial areas in Ankara, Turkey. (REUTERS)
A general view of residential and commercial areas in Ankara, Turkey. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 min 37 sec ago

Turkey tightens foreign citizenship investment from June

A general view of residential and commercial areas in Ankara, Turkey. (REUTERS)
  • Amid widespread criticism of skyrocketing house prices in the country, which has hit Turkish nationals the most, the government recently raised the amount that foreigners must invest in property in order to become eligible for citizenship

ANKARA: A price hike for foreigners seeking citizenship through real estate investment is the latest attempt by the Turkish government to ease the country’s financial woes.

The move is estimated to help Turkey overcome its current account deficit and change the profile of foreign investors.

“Only up to June 3 you can apply for Turkish citizenship by investing $250,000. Obtain a Turkish passport and citizenship in the most prestigious projects in Istanbul,” a popular advertisement reads.

Amid widespread criticism of skyrocketing house prices in the country, which has hit Turkish nationals the most, the government recently raised the amount that foreigners must invest in property in order to become eligible for citizenship.

Accordingly, any foreign national who buys real estate worth at least $400,000 — raised from $250,000 in the previous legislation — can get Turkish citizenship. The money should be deposited to a Turkish bank, and the house should not be sold for three years.

Foreign nationals who fulfill this condition, as well as their spouses and children below 18, automatically receive Turkish passports.

The purchase of housing by foreigners is expected to ease Turkey’s widening current account deficit and support the real estate sector, as well as construction companies.

Turkey’s budget deficit tripled in April compared with the previous year and the fiscal gap reached 50.2 billion liras ($3.23 billion). The country also posted a current account deficit of $5.5 billion.

Foreign nationals who join the private pension system with at least $500,000 or foreign equivalent and stay within the system for three years are also entitled to obtain Turkish citizenship.

Foreign businessmen who provide employment opportunities for 50 people in Turkey or those depositing $500,000 to Turkish banks without withdrawing it for three years can also get Turkish citizenship, according to the amended law.

The legislative change will apply from June 13.

For the moment, Russians, Ukrainians and Gulf nationals are the top clients in the Turkish real estate sector, and are buying up property in southern resort towns and Istanbul.

Russians also established a record number of companies — 64 — in March, quadrupling the figure from the previous month.

The number of houses sold in Turkey to foreign buyers soared 58 percent annually, according to official data. Russians topped the foreign buyers’ list with 1,152 houses. They were followed by Iranians and Iraqis, who bought 905 and 714 houses, respectively.

To facilitate sales, Turkish banks also began opening ruble-based accounts.

From January to April, residential property sales to foreigners increased by 49 percent, reaching 20,791 units.

“As the amount of investments required for citizenship was reduced from $1 million to $250,000 over the last four years, there is an increased demand for acquiring Turkish citizenship. But increasing it to $400,000 will also improve the foreign investors’ profile in Turkey,” said Selen Kolan-Imir, an attorney specializing in citizenship law.

However, experts note that the growing interest in the Turkish real estate market by foreigners risks increasing housing prices to uncontrollable levels.

The depreciation in the Turkish lira has also made Turkey’s real estate market more appealing to foreign investors.

“Rather than asking people to invest in real estate, there is a need to encourage foreigners to generate employment opportunities or open innovative startups to result in long-term advantages for the Turkish economy,” Kolan-Imir told Arab News.

With the increased number of foreign children as a result of Turkish citizenship investments, the country should also provide new educational and social facilities, she added.

“Recently there is a surge of private international schools that are opened for foreign children who are living in Turkey with their families or for those who become a new Turkish citizen.”

Bulut Bagci, president of the World Tourism Forum Institute, said that offering citizenship through investment is common in Europe, and that Turkey is choosing to follow a similar path.

“Compared to the similar cases in Europe, especially in the UK, this amount is still low. However, it will support tourism in Turkey and increase tourism revenues, because people who buy a house will visit the country frequently and go to the touristic destinations,” he told Arab News.

However, last month, some opposition lawmakers submitted a motion to parliament for a temporary ban on property sales to foreigners.

Bagci added that foreign nationals who receive Turkish citizenship should be encouraged to take part in the tourism sector by buying hotels and other facilities.

“Following prolonged conflicts in its neighborhood, Turkey needs tourism revenues to meet its foreign exchange needs. My only concern is that the purchase of houses should not be made open to abuse as it needs to be monitored closely with a strict regulation. I have heard so many cases where people sell their houses after getting citizenship to take benefits from this sector,” he said.

After the government recently revealed a new package to provide cheaper housing loans, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that property prices in Turkey should be tightly monitored.


One killed in renewed anti-coup protests in Sudan

One killed in renewed anti-coup protests in Sudan
Updated 21 May 2022

One killed in renewed anti-coup protests in Sudan

One killed in renewed anti-coup protests in Sudan
  • The victim, who was not identified, died as a result of "a bullet to the chest" in the capital's twin city of Omdurman
  • Saturday's protests came after thousands took to the streets Thursday to oppose the power grab

KHARTOUM: Sudanese security forces killed one protester on Saturday during renewed demonstrations against a military takeover that derailed a transition to civilian rule last year, medics said.
The victim, who was not identified, died as a result of “a bullet to the chest” in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman, the pro-democracy Central Committee of Sudan Doctors said in a statement.
The latest death brings to 96 the toll from a crackdown on anti-coup protests which have taken place regularly since the October 25 military putsch led by army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, the committee said.
Saturday’s protests came after thousands took to the streets Thursday to oppose the power grab, mainly in Khartoum but also elsewhere, renewing demands for civilian rule.
About 100 people were injured during Thursday’s demonstrations, according to the doctors’ committee.
At the same time two leading anti-coup figures from Sudan’s Communist Party were arrested. They were released on Friday.
The United Nations, along with the African Union and regional bloc IGAD, have been pushing to facilitate Sudanese-led talks to resolve the crisis after the latest coup in the northeast African country, one of the world’s poorest.
But civilian forces have refused to enter negotiations involving the military, while Burhan has repeatedly threatened to expel UN envoy Volker Perthes, accusing him of “interference” in the country’s affairs.
In late March Perthes said Sudan was heading toward “an economic and security collapse” unless its civilian-led transition was restored.


Kuwait ministry captures Iranian ship with 240 tons of smuggled diesel: report

Kuwait ministry captures Iranian ship with 240 tons of smuggled diesel: report
Updated 21 May 2022

Kuwait ministry captures Iranian ship with 240 tons of smuggled diesel: report

Kuwait ministry captures Iranian ship with 240 tons of smuggled diesel: report

DUBAI: Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior has seized an Iranian ship carrying 240 tons of smuggled diesel, a report by Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV said Saturday. 

The ministry said it has seized the ship in territorial waters and has arrested its crew members, who were Iranian. 

It said the Iranian ship crew were buying fuel from smaller ships at certain prices. 

The ministry also said an investigation is underway to reveal all the circumstances of the smuggling incident. 


Israeli forces gun down 17-year-old social media activist

Israeli security forces clash with Palestinians in Jerusalem. (AFP file photo)
Israeli security forces clash with Palestinians in Jerusalem. (AFP file photo)
Updated 28 min 39 sec ago

Israeli forces gun down 17-year-old social media activist

Israeli security forces clash with Palestinians in Jerusalem. (AFP file photo)
  • Jenin refugee camp has served as a flashpoint amid recent tensions following a wave of attacks

RAMALLAH: A 17-year-old Palestinian boy was killed and another teenager was critically wounded by Israeli military forces who raided the Jenin refugee camp at dawn on Saturday.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health confirmed that Amjad Al-Fayed died after being shot by the Israeli army.

Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition during violent confrontations with youths on Haifa Street. Local Palestinian sources in Jenin reported that army vehicles had tried to advance toward the outskirts of the camp.

Al-Fayed was the nephew of two previous victims of Israeli barbarity. Their names are associated with the “ambush of the 13 soldiers” in Jenin during a battle in April 2002.

Palestinian sources reported that a march was launched in front of Ibn Sina Hospital in Jenin as soon as the killing of Al-Fayed was announced.  Mourners carried his body and roamed the city's streets and its camp. They chanted slogans condemning the crimes of the Israeli occupation and called for strengthening national unity.

Later, large crowds in Jenin attended the teen's funeral and condemned Israeli atrocities.

Palestinian national and Islamic factions in Jenin called for reinforcing national unity to confront Israel's excesses.

The speakers stressed that Israel's crimes would not intimidate the Palestinians and “they would continue to resist until the occupation was defeated.”

A general strike was also observed in Jenin to express anger over Al-Fayed's killing.

Jenin Gov. Maj. Gen. Akram Rajoub told Arab News: "Al-Fayed, who was targeted and killed, was a young man who did not carry a weapon but was active on social media and in the ‘Wasp's Nest’ group, which conveys news of Jenin and the Israeli attacks against it, and they may have killed him for that reason.”

He said that many of those killed by the Israeli army in Jenin were not carrying weapons.

“We cannot understand what the Israelis want except to inflame people's anger and the continuation of attrition and killing to achieve Israel's goals and policy of prolonging its rule for as long as possible at the cost of Palestinian blood.”

Four Palestinians, including Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, have been killed by Israeli forces in the last two weeks. An Israeli soldier was also slain, and four soldiers and settlers were wounded.

With Al-Fayed's death, the number of Palestinian victims of Israeli brutality in Jenin and its camp has reached 20 since the beginning of 2022.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the Israeli army has killed 55 Palestinians in the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, since the start of this year.

In recent weeks, the Israeli armed forces, which have occupied the West Bank since 1967, have intensified their military operations in Jenin, especially in its camp, claiming that armed Palestinian factions are active there.

The incursions happen primarily during dawn and are interspersed with clashes between soldiers and Palestinian resistance fighters.

Last week, 13 Palestinians were wounded during an operation launched by the Israeli forces in the camp, in which a Palestinian and an Israeli soldier were killed.

PLO Executive Committee member Hussein Al-Sheikh welcomed the US State Department's call for a comprehensive and transparent investigation into the assassination of Abu Akleh after the Israeli decision to close her investigation file.

Earlier, 55 US Congressmen had signed a petition calling on the FBI to probe the circumstances of her death.

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