Amnesty International has accused European Union (EU) countries of complicity in human right violations by Libyan officials against refugees through blocking the asylum seekers from reaching Europe.
Amnesty said on Tuesday that up to 20,000 people were now held in detention camps under horrific conditions and were subject to “torture, forced labor, extortion, and unlawful killings,” echoing similar allegations made by other rights groups over the past months.
“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these crimes,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s director for Europe.
Since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, chaos-ridden Libya has become a major transit hub for refugees trying to reach Europe. Most of them are from conflict zones such as Syria and Afghanistan. Others are migrating for economic reasons.
The EU has reached an agreement with Libya aimed at stopping the flow of refugees across the central Mediterranean to the north. Under the deal, the EU has been training the Libyan coastguard to intercept boats carrying refugees.
The agreement has managed to drastically decrease the number of arrivals in Italy.
Libyan coastguard ‘in cahoots with human traffickers’
Amnesty said the Libyan coastguards work hand-in-hand with people smugglers, including in torturing people to extort money.
It also said Europe had little regard for the plight of the refugees who remain in Libya.
“By supporting Libyan authorities in trapping people in Libya… European governments have shown where their true priorities lie: namely the closure of the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused,” Dalhuisen said.