The IOM has expressed “grave concerns” over the fate of hundreds of migrants who have been rescued at sea and returned to detention centers controlled by armed groups in Libya.
UN reports describe these detention facilities as dire, where migrants are tortured, starved and forced into labour. The report also stated that a number of women have been have been sexually exploited. The IOM spokesperson called for the “dismantling of the detention system and establishing alternatives that guarantee a minimum degree of safety”.
Last week, a Maltese commercial ship rescued a group of 51 migrants and returned the survivors to the Libyan Coast Guard. The IOM confirmed that five bodies had been retrieved and a further seven were missing.
IOM has stated that. due to the intensity of the conflict between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Government of National Accord (GNA), Libyan ports could not be considered places of safety.
There are concerns that there will be an upsurge in attempts made by migrants to reach Europe due to the resurfacing of human traffickers in various coastal cities recently recaptured by the GNA in western Libya. Among the most prominent traffickers to reappear is Ahmed Omar Al-Dabashi (“Al-Ammu”), commander of the Anas Al-Dabashi militia. Al-Ammu, who resurfaced in the city of Sabratha last week, is involved in a major transnational human trafficking network and has been blacklisted by the UN.
Thousands of Sub-Saharan Africans travel to Europe via Libya’s north-western coast, taking advantage of the security vacuum in the country. According to the IOM, some 3,200 migrants who attempted to reach Europe this year have been returned to Libya, with “roughly 1,500 people detained in eleven state-run detention centers.”
Media visits to detention centers in Libya have not been allowed since the CNN reported in November 2017 that migrants were “being sold as slaves”.