The European Union is so determined to halt the flight of Africans through Libya that it is willing to turn a blind eye to the appalling conditions of the detention centres in which refugees are being held.
EU leaders confirmed last month that they were pressing ahead with their detention plan: declaring it a ‘priority’ to ‘to ensure adequate reception capacities and conditions in Libya for migrants, together with the UNHCR and IOM.’
This position was adopted despite the UNHCR issuing a statement with the IOM [International Organisation for Migration] urging the EU to not consider Libya a safe destination for refugees.
We urge a move away from migration management based on the automatic detention of refugees and migrants in inhumane conditions in Libya towards the creation of proper reception services.
The EU is fully aware of just how terrible the conditions inside the detention centres really are.
As the Guardian reported, the Germany embassy in Niger warned in a diplomatic cable that authentic cellphone photos and videos substantiated reports of concentration camp-like conditions in private prisons operated by people smugglers.
“There are executions of countless migrants, torture, rapes, bribery and banishment to the desert on a daily basis,” the report says.
Witnesses spoke of five executions a week in one prison, designed to free up space for new migrants and increase smugglers’ revenues.
UNICEF confirms the horrific conditions
A report from the UN children’s organisation, UNICEF, explains the scale of the problem.
This is what UNICEF has found:
“An estimated 34 detention centres have been identified in Libya. The Libyan Government Department for Combatting Illegal Migration runs 24 detention centres. They hold between 4,000 and 7,000 detainees.
Armed groups hold migrants in an unknown number of unofficial detention centres.
The international community, including UNICEF, only has access to fewer than half of government-run detention centres.”
The EU’s plans are for Australian style offshore detention facilities in Libya, as a means of preventing tens of thousands of Africans arriving in Europe.
It is a harsh reaction to a problem; one that puts many thousands of Africans in terrible jeopardy.
UNICEF describes the conditions under which they are being held in the official centres: the centres run by the armed groups are even worse.
“The majority of women in the detention centres also reported verbal and physical violence perpetrated by the predominantly male guards.
Children did not receive any preferential treatment and were often placed in cells together with adult detainees, which increased the risk of abuse.
The survey confirmed that sanitation conditions were substandard and the centres were, worryingly overcrowded, increasing the likelihood of the spread of infectious diseases.
This was compounded by the fact that health-care services were not available, leaving women and girls unable to access feminine hygiene products or medicines. It was estimated that 20 per cent of the detainees were women.”