For ten days, they have been requesting their evacuation following the massive arrests of recent weeks. The situation of migrants south of the Sahara is still inhumane in the country: slavery, rape and other violence are systemic.
With Alexandra Brangeon,from RFI’s Africa service
On October 2 and 3, the Libyan authorities are conducting a so-called “anti-drug” operation in Gargaresh in the western suburbs of Tripoli, a poor neighborhood where many migrants and asylum seekers live.
About 5,000 people were arrestedincluding women and children, and sent to government-run detention centers. There are fifteen in the country, half of them in the capital. According to UN agencies, about 10,000 migrants or asylum seekers are detained in these centers.
A few days later, an incident broke out in one of these overcrowded and unhealthy centers. Six migrants are shot dead and about 2,000 people flee.
Since then, the international community has called on the Libyan authorities to be restrained. These refugees – who have about 41,000 in the country – have a status and should not be treated as criminals, recalls the office of the Refugee Commission.
► Also read:“There is still a lot to be said about human trafficking in Libya”
For the organization Médecin sans Frontières – which works in several of these centers – migrants are victims of all types of abuse and violence, explains Jérôme Tubiana, MSF researcher.
Many are forced to work without getting paid, sometimes for years, which is actually just slavery […]. Women are systematically raped or forced into prostitution or victims of sexual slavery. […] Racism is very high in Libya, black migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are systematically treated as slaves.
► To read too :Slavery of migrants: frightening testimony to a Senegalese return from Libya
These abuses are condemned by all, and yet the EU continues to work with the Tripoli authorities.
There is a certain responsibility, especially within the European Union, because the EU and some of its member states have so far cooperated with the Libyan actors and not only with the government recognized by the UN but also with militias, with one goal: to prevent migrants from reaching sea and cross to Europe. The European Union is financing the Libyan coast guard in a completely schizophrenic way.
In any case, the arrests in Gargaresh created panic, admits an official from the UN refugee agency.
More than a thousand people have been camping for ten weeks in front of the UNHCR’s offices in Tripoli, mainly Sudanese, Ethiopians and Eritreans asking to be evacuated from Libya.
► Also read:Slave markets in Libya: a hell that is not from yesterday
■ Testimony: “If you’re black, you’re not here“
RFI was able to reach Hassan, a young Sudanese 29-year-old has been in Tripoli for three years, he has already attempted crossing into Europe on two occasions, was arrested by the Libyan coast guard and sent to one of these centers. He talks about his experience.
RFI:Why did you come to Libya?
Hassan: When I left Sudan, I left everything behind. I wanted a new life. My plan was to go to Europe and continue my studies. That is why I came to Libya in January 2019 to try to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. But well here everything was much harder than I thought. And I got stuck here.
How did you live for three years?
I lived with a Sudanese friend who had gotten a job. I had laundry. Sometimes I could also work. It was difficult to raise money to pay for the crossing to Europe. I tried twice. And each time we were captured by the Libyan Coast Guard, who took us back. It was very difficult for me, especially the second time, because after that I was in prison for a long time.
What happened to you ?
I stayed there for about five months. They kept asking me to pay so they could be released, sometimes they beat us. They forced us to call our families – to send us $ 100 or $ 200 – so we could be released.
One day one of the managers came to ask me if I wanted to work for him, and I followed him. I worked for several weeks and when it was over he told me that he could not pay, but that I was free. So I thanked him and left.
Do you remember who it was?
One of the top police chiefs in Tarek al Sika prison.
What were the living conditions in this prison?
It was very difficult, the prison was overcrowded, there were hundreds of people from all over Africa waiting to enter Europe.
To eat we only got one piece of bread a day; and there was no water to drink. There was only sea water, sometimes the cops were okay, but if any of us tried to escape, they would hit everyone.
And you necessarily have to pay to go out?
If you do not pay, you can not get out of these centers; they do everything to take advantage of you, to make money. If you refused to pay, sometimes they would hit you, they would film and you had to send this to your family and say they would kill you, throw you into the sea.
This happens in prison, but also outside. There is no authority, no government. Everyone is trying to take advantage of you.
If you have a phone, they will take it from you. Even the police, if you are black, they stop you on the street, if you have a phone, goods, money they take it from you.
You know, in Galgaresh, when hundreds of migrants were rounded up, the police stole all their belongings from their homes. Then they destroyed everything. If you’re black, you’re not here. You are nothing.
Interview by Alexandra Brangeon
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