Amnesty International condemned the “horrific violations” committed against migrants returned to Libya with the cooperation of European states after attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

The human rights group said on Thursday new evidence had emerged of “atrocious violations, including sexual violence, against men, women and children” intercepted at sea and forcibly returned to centers of detention in this North African country.

Amnesty, in a 50-page report (PDF), condemned “the continued complicity of European states” for cooperating with the authorities in war-torn Libya.

At the end of 2020, the Libyan Directorate for the Fight against Illegal Migration had “legitimized” abuses by taking over two detention centers run by armed groups from which hundreds of refugees and migrants had forcibly disappeared, he said. .

One such facility is the Shara al-Zawiya center in Tripoli, according to the report.

Pope Francis and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres have called for the closure of these facilities.

Amnesty cited the testimony of survivors of a guard establishment subjecting women to sexual violence “in exchange for their release or essential goods such as clean water”, or their freedom.

One of them said that she had been severely beaten for refusing to comply with such a request, saying: “I said [the guard] no. He used a gun to push me back. He used a leather soldier’s shoe … to [kick] me of my size.

Two young women at the facility attempted to kill themselves as a result of the abuse, Amnesty said.

Others, including boys, described being tampered with, pushed and raped.

The results come from interviews with 53 refugees and migrants, aged 14 to 50, from countries such as Nigeria, Somalia and Syria, who were mostly still in Libya and had been able to flee the camps or had access to phone.

Amnesty has also examined documents, photos and videos from the Libyan authorities and the UN.

The human rights group urged Europe to “suspend cooperation on migration and border control with Libya”.

“Rotten to the core”

Italy and the European Union have for years funded, trained and provided assistance to the coast guard to prevent smugglers from taking migrants and refugees in crowded and fragile boats across the Mediterranean to Europe.

Although plunged into chaos after the fall of Muammar Gadhafi’s regime in 2011, Libya has become a privileged springboard for migrants in search of a better life in Europe.

Some flee conflict or persecution, while hundreds of thousands of people flee poverty.

UN agencies and non-governmental organizations operating in the Mediterranean regularly denounce European policies of forced return of migrants.

Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, called the rights group’s new report “horrible.”

It “sheds new light on the suffering of those intercepted at sea and returned to Libya, where they are immediately arbitrarily detained and systematically subjected to torture, sexual violence, forced labor and other forms of exploitation. with impunity, ”she said.

European countries “have shamefully continued to allow and assist the Libyan Coast Guard to capture people at sea and forcibly return them to the hellish landscape of detention in Libya, knowing full well the horrors they will endure” , Eltahawy said.

Eltahawy said Libya’s detention network was “rotten to the core and must be dismantled.”

Despite a truce between warring factions in Libya since October as part of a UN-backed peace plan following the fall of Gaddafi in 2011, armed groups still hold power on the ground, with some controlling camps in migrants.

Since the start of the summer, the number of crossings has increased as migrants take advantage of the good weather, but the number of people lost at sea has also increased.

Nearly 900 migrants have died this year trying to reach Europe from North Africa, according to the International Organization for Migration.

UNHCR said the coast guard returned more than 13,000 people to Libya between January and June of this year, exceeding the number for all of 2020.

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