They arrived at dawn and were given ten minutes to clear the camp. Ten minutes to collect the stores in which more than a thousand people wore cten days sleeping and protesting peacefully, in the middle of the street, in front of a center for asylum seekers of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Tripoli, the capital of a country, Libya, which has not existed for eleven years.
The raid took place last Sunday night and did not spare the violence of the Libyan security forces, authorities of a failed state in the hands of armed militias and with two parallel governments that have not even been able to hold the elections scheduled for December . However, it remains one of the main walls that Europe, especially Italy, has erected in Africa to block irregular migration. Even if this means locking up hundreds of thousands of people in an inferno of torture, extortion, slavery and abuse that is watered with public money.
In Sunday’s operation there was shots fired into the air, someone wounded by a bullet, many others by knife, blows and arbitrary arrests that concluded in the confinement of more than 600 people, including women and children, in the Ain Zara detention center in the south of the city. This has been denounced by the migrants themselves and confirmed by sources from the UNHCR in Libya and the NGOs Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Alarm Phone.
A UNHCR spokesman in Libya assures Public that during the early morning, the Libyan security forces “fired shots in the air when some people tried to escape” from the raid and that “the tents were demolished and the belongings” of the migrants were confiscated or destroyed. It confirms that there was a “similar” operation in front of UNHCR’s main offices, where there was another smaller protest for the same reasons as the one in Tripoli.
The detainees were forcibly introduced into buses, as documented in several videos uploaded to Twitter, and transferred to what they call “a concentration camp for migrantssouth of Tripoli. “Everyone was caught off guard, the tents were burned to the ground and the refugees forcibly arrested and taken to the Ain Zara concentration camps,” posted one of the spokesmen for the protest.
MSF, which has provided medical assistance since 2016 in some migrant detention centers in the country, has reported that treated 68 injured people in the center of Ain Zara, of which seven were taken to hospitals from the city. “We have treated patients with stab wounds, bruise marks and signs of shock and trauma caused by forced arrests. Among them were people who had been beaten and separated from their children during raids“, says Gabriele Ganci, general coordinator of the NGO in Libya. The same source adds that hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers were already detained in this center “in overcrowded cells and in precarious living conditions“.
An absolute inhumane situation in Ain Zara now. Hundreds kept in one hangar in a place not fit for a living. Even when cattles are encamped they are always given a place to drop their own dungs & a space to & fro. It is unlike for our innocent Refugees that they are nothing @hrw pic.twitter.com/vJpLPMaF7Y
— Refugees In Libya (@RefugeesinLibya) January 10, 2022
As the migrants themselves have been denouncing for three months on social networks, their protest demanded UN protection and evacuation to a safe third country for them. They ended up camping at the gates of this UNHCR center, which was already closed, after being expelled from their homes in October, following a raid that left them totally destitute. They were mothers with babies, women pregnant, victims of sexual violence and torture, people who had tried to reach Europe by boat on several occasions, but had been turned back by the Libyan coastguard.
They had all organized to report daily on their situation, on networks and through a web page that they created to pressure for their evacuation after months living in the open.
“Unfortunately, UNHCR is unable to evacuate all refugees in Libya as we do not have enough resettlement offers,” Vincent Cochetel, UN Special Envoy for the Central and Western Mediterranean, said on Twitter. After months at a standstill, evacuation flights for asylum seekers in Libya resumed in October 2021, although they are carried out slowly, basically to Niger and, to a lesser extent, to Italy, and only in cases of extreme vulnerability.
Houses destroyed and 4,000 arrested three months ago
All those arrested in the last raid had arrived there after last October 2021, thousands of migrants and asylum seekers were forcibly evicted from their homes, which were demolished, in the city of Gargaresh, ten kilometers west of Tripoli, where thousands of migrants are concentrated, especially from sub-Saharan countries.
The Libyan Ministry of the Interior then reported the arrest of 4,000 people in a raid against illegal immigration and drug trafficking. The United Nations and the few NGOs working in the field attested to the violence used at the time. “Unarmed migrants were harassed in their homes, beaten and shot“, said the UN humanitarian coordinator for Libya, Georgette Gagnon, as collected Al jazeera.
According to reported information, there was at least one dead and 15 wounded, and among those arrested there were also women and minors. The objective of the Libyan authorities was the deportation of the detainees to their countries, although nothing is known of the real whereabouts of these people in a country where the official detention centers are in the hands of militias with close ties to human traffickers.
€87 million for the Libyan Coast Guard
Gloomy cellars also abound throughout Libya where criminal groups lock up, torture, extort or sell into slavery migrants before they can set sail for Europe in a small boat. Or after being intercepted on the high seas and returned to this hell by the Libyan coastguard, financed by Italy and the EU to prevent the maximum possible number of arrivals to the old continent.
From 2017 to 2020, the EU has disbursed €408 million for migration management in Libya
The situation has been documented by numerous NGOs, by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights or by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), also attached to the UN. But the European funds allocated to the training and equipment of the Libyan coastguard have not stopped increasing. From 2017 to 2020, the EU has disbursed €408 million for migration management in Libya.
At least 87 million have been allocated to training and equipping the coast guards, which, despite their official name, are heterogeneous armed militias that control different territories after the civil war that ended Gaddafi’s regime.
The United Nations has almost 32,500 migrants returned to Libya in 2021. To which must be added 50,500 between 2017 and 2020, according to figures from the Council of Europe.
Camouflaged between items with funds for aid to the development of the EU Trust Fund for Africa, Brussels finances the blockade of migrants, their overcrowding in the criticized detention centers and also the so-called “voluntary returns” of people to their countries, managed by IOM. Until 2020, more than 50,000 people joined this program, according to the Council of Europe. The IOM estimated in 2020 at more than 600,000 migrants and asylum seekers in the country, the majority from Mali, Chad, Egypt and Sudan. All countries immersed in armed conflicts, except Egypt, where General Al Sisi seized power after the military coup in 2013.