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'Unimaginable horrors': UN report details violations against migrants in Libya

UN document calls on EU states to reexamine their cooperation with Libyan authorities to avoid contributing to rampant abuse
Migrants at Ganzour shelter in Libya on 5 September (AFP/File photo)

Migrants in Libya are facing "unimaginable horrors," including extrajudicial killings, sexual abuse, torture, slavery and arbitrary detention, a United Nations report said.

The new report, released by UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN Human Rights Office on Thursday, calls on European Union states to re-examine their cooperation with the Libyan authorities on the issue of migration to avoid contributing to such rampant abuse.

"This should include working towards an end to the mandatory, automatic and arbitrary detention of migrants and refugees in irregular situations, stamping out of torture and ill-treatment, sexual violence and forced labour in detention, and ending all return practices that would violate the strict prohibitions on collective expulsion and refoulement," the report says.

On Thursday, Libya's coast guard, which received new boats from the Italian government earlier this year to help quell migration, said it has intercepted about 15,000 migrants trying to reach Italy by sea so far this year.

According to the UN report, the Libyan coast guard intercepted 29,000 migrants between the beginning of 2017 and the end of September 2018.

Migrants who get picked up by the authorities and armed groups are placed in detention centres, which the UN described as "inhuman".

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During visits to detention centres run by Libya's Department for Combatting Illegal Immigration, UN staff witnessed "severe overcrowding, lack of proper ventilation and lighting, inadequate access to washing facilities and latrines, constant confinement, denial of contact with the outside world, and malnutrition," the report says.

Since Libya fell into chaos after an uprising ousted longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, the country has become a major jumping off point for migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa as they try to reach Europe by sea.

"This climate of lawlessness provides fertile ground for thriving illicit activities, such as trafficking in human beings and criminal smuggling, and leaves migrant and refugee men, women and children at the mercy of countless predators who view them as commodities to be exploited and extorted for maximum financial gain," the UN report states.

The UN report also suggests that racism may play a role in the violations that migrants are subjected to.

"Abuses against Sub-Saharan migrants and refugees, in particular, are compounded by the failure of the Libyan authorities to address racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia," the UN said.