Thousands of migrants captured by Libyan coast guard disappear in facilities run by traffickers and militias



  • The Libyan Coast Guard captured 15,000 migrants in the first seven months of 2021.
  • Only 6,000 of the 15,000 captured migrants were transferred to official detention centers.
  • International humanitarian organizations say detention centers are overcrowded and lack basic amenities.

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In the first seven months of 2021, more than 15,000 migrants were captured by the Libyan coast guard and other authorities as they attempted to cross international waters and reach Europe. However, only around 6,000 of the captured migrants were held in designated migrant detention centers, a New Yorker investigation revealed.

Federico Soda, Head of Mission of the International Organization for Migration in Libya, tell the New Yorker that “the numbers just don’t add up.” He believes migrants are disappearing in “unofficial” detention centers run by militias and traffickers, with which the United Nations has accused the Libyan coast guard of collaborating, the New Yorker reported.

In addition to the fifteen recognized detention centers in the country, the number of unofficial detention sites has “mushroomed” in recent years, according to the IOM.

International humanitarian organizations have expressed concern over reports received regarding conditions in official and unofficial detention centers for migrants, with countless survivors and escapees recounting their sexual abuse, extortion and even torture at the hands of the guards. , the New Yorker reported.

Many migrants used Libya as a transit point before heading to Europe, which hardened its stance towards new arrivals and financially supported the Libyan Coast Guard, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The perilous journey is made by thousands of migrants for a variety of reasons, including forced displacement, economic opportunities and flight from war and persecution, according to Human Rights Watch.

Osman, a Sudanese immigrant who fled the conflict in Darfur and was later held in Libya’s largest detention center, told Amnesty International how the guards subjected the detainees to torture: “When they beat you, it’s on the level of death: you want death. They would come drunk at night and harass people until morning.

Mass arrests carried out by Libyan authorities last month exacerbated already dire conditions in the centers. Aid organizations like the International Rescue Committee, who sent staff and volunteers to the centers, reported extreme malnutrition and famine, overcrowding and a lack of basic amenities like toilets, mattresses and clean water.

Libyan law allows these migrants to be detained indefinitely without access to a lawyer, as well as sold for forced labor, according to the New Yorker.



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