Libya: foreign nationals face abuse and exploitation- new report
Posted: 13 November 2012
‘It is shameful that Gaddafi-era abuses against foreigners ... have not only continued but worsened’ - Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui
Amnesty International has warned (13 November) that the plight of foreign nationals in Libya has worsened since the end of Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi’s rule, amid a general climate of lawlessness in the country.
Issuing a new report - “We Are Foreigners, We Have No Rights” (PDF) based on several visits to Libya between May and September this year - Amnesty said that undocumented foreign nationals in Libya are at risk of exploitation, arbitrary and indefinite detention, as well as beatings, sometimes amounting to torture.
During Gaddafi’s 42-year rule, foreign nationals - particularly those from Sub-Saharan Africa - lived with the fear of arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention, torture and other abuses. Now, says the report, their situation has worsened, with powerful armed militias continuing to act outside the law and the authorities failing to tackle racism and xenophobia. The situation is fuelled by a widespread belief amongst Libyans that “African mercenaries” had been used by the ousted government to crush the 2011 uprising.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:
“It is shameful that Gaddafi-era abuses against foreigners, especially those from Sub-Saharan Africa, have not only continued but worsened.
“The Libyan authorities must acknowledge the extent of the abuse by militias and put in place measures to protect all foreign nationals from violence and abuse, regardless of their origin or immigration status.
Despite the risks, foreign nationals from countries such as Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan continue to enter Libya through its porous borders, fleeing war or persecution or in search of better economic opportunities. Individuals entitled to international protection are caught-up in Libya’s mixed-migration flows.
For those held indefinitely for “migration offences” pending deportation, there is no possibility of legally challenging their detention and or removal from the country. In some cases, those deported are required to pay their own travel expenses. Libyans officials told Amnesty that some 4,000 foreign nationals were deported between January and September 2012. There are no safeguards against returning people who face a risk of persecution if removed.
Meanwhile, despite well-documented abuses, the European Union has resumed dialogue with Libya on migration-related issues, while in April Italy signed an agreement “to curtail the flow of migrants” with Libya, seemingly oblivious to Libya’s human rights record.
While there were fewer reports of severe beatings of women, some female detainees told Amnesty that they were hit or slapped during their arrest. Others reported being subjected to torture or other ill-treatment in detention. Like men, they are punished for “disruptive behaviour”. A Nigerian woman detained in Tweisha centre in Tripoli described being beaten and given electric shocks on 13 September. She said: “The world needs to know what is happening to us [Sub-Saharan African nationals] in Libya. For Libyans, we are not even human. I did not do anything wrong. I just came here to work. Now I am locked up for months, and don’t know what will happen to me. There is nobody here to help me.”
Women are also vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence in detention. None of the centres holding female detainees had female guards.
At risk of arrest
Detentions and torture