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Horrors of Migrant Kidnapping in Libya

Horrors of Migrant Kidnapping in Libya

Thursday, 30 December, 2021 - 08:45
Illegal immigrants during their deportation to a detention center in Tripoli after being rescued from drowning (Getty Images)

In the Egyptian town of Kafr Abou Negm, the ghost of death looms everywhere. News coming from Libya is coated with the stench of blood. Everyone wearily awaits any piece of information about the group of youth who secretly left the country in hopes of reaching Europe but instead drowned in Mediterranean waters.


A few days dominated by frustration and despair had passed with matters on the other side seemingly bleak and horrific.


Some of those who survived the drowning were being tortured with iron sticks and burned with fire in the “Bir Al-Ghanam” camp for irregular migrants, located southwest of the Libyan capital, Tripoli.


This tragedy is just a small-scale version of the dozens of crimes that migrants are subjected to, who infiltrate Libya through the vast desert, coming to it from different paths and capitals.


Some drown, some reach the “European Paradise,” others disappear inside prisons or narrow zones roofed with wood and metal sheets run by smuggling gangs. Those kidnapped await a mysterious fate, perhaps worse than death at sea.


All smuggling routes are controlled by a large mafia with local and regional reach. It operates inside the Libyan borders and from cities overlooking the Mediterranean coast, such as Sabratah.


Those coming from Egypt, Sudan and Somalia may meet with those who came through Chad and Niger. They are joined by more migrants coming from Ghana and the Ivory Coast.


All of them remain, since their departure from their homes, in the custody of the “broker”, who takes them on rugged paths until they settle in Libya, far from the watchful eyes of security authorities.


But if they fall into the grip of human-trafficking gangs, the matter may be completely different. They will be as good as dead as everything with these mafias has a price.


Even entering the toilet and drinking water might cost steeply.


Asharq Al-Awsat monitored some stories of bloody torture committed inside irregular immigration camps, beginning with beating migrants with whips and iron pipes, and ending with burning their bodies with fire to force their families to pay the ransom required for their release.


Some of these crimes are committed inside official detention facilities in Tripoli, including Ghout al-Shaal, while others are carried out in camps supervised by armed groups, or in secret warehouses.


Migrants pouring into Libya across its vast borders seems to fall in the interest of many segments.


Beneficiaries include militias and gangs professed for smuggling. Also, some tribes in the south of Libya are accused of exploiting the chaos that struck the North African country over the past decade to profit from the smuggling of people, weapons, drugs, and fuel.


But the interesting thing is that human trafficking has opened another evil door, the organ trade.


In Libya, African immigrants are being killed and having their organs carved out by specialized doctors. The organs are then sold for huge sums of money.


From time to time, security patrols find decomposing bodies of migrants in the Libyan desert.


Libya has witnessed a noticeable increase in the flow of migrants towards European shores, considering the relative calm the country is witnessing at present.


Nevertheless, the local coast guard forces and European ships working to rescue migrants are returning them to Libya.


The speech of most Libyan officials is devoid of any responsibility for the crimes of abuse of migrants, and in this regard, Brigadier-General Al-Mabrouk Abdel Hafeez said that his country “has become a victim, and was left alone in the face of this issue, which countries have been unable to address.”


The UNHCR says that nearly 5,000 refugees and asylum seekers are registered with it, of whom about 45% are men, 22 % are women, and 33% are children.


The International Organization for Migration also recorded the rescue of 969 migrants from drowning from December 19 to 25.


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