UN condemns Libyan migrant violence, demands an investigation

The UN Human Rights Office has demanded that the deadly shooting of migrants fleeing a Libyan crackdown be investigated.

Photo credit: Newsbreak

By Nathan Otaba,

The UN human rights office has accused Libyan security forces of using “unnecessary and disproportionate” force to detain African migrants, shooting dead some of those attempting to flee.

Hundreds of migrants and refugees have queued outside a United Nations center in Tripoli in recent days to seek assistance in fleeing Libya following what aid agencies described as a brutal campaign that resulted in hundreds of arrests and numerous shootings.

Libyan security forces have targeted migrants and asylum seekers, some of whose claims are still pending, according to UN human rights spokesman Marta Hurtado, who appeared at a UN briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

“As a result of this, there have been killings and significant injuries, as well as an increase in detentions in deplorable conditions and expulsions of individuals to nations in Sub-Saharan Africa without due process,” Hurtado added.

Libya’s Government of National Unity has stated that it is “handling a complicated issue in the illegal migration file, as it symbolizes a human tragedy as well as social, political, and legal consequences locally and globally.”

On October 1, officers from the Ministry of Interior stormed an unofficial encampment of hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers in Gergaresh, west of Tripoli, handcuffing, arresting, and killing or beating those who resisted, according to Hurtado.

On October 6, over 500 migrants managed to flee the Gheriyan detention center in Tripoli and were “chased by guards who opened fire with live ammunition,” killing at least four people and injuring others, she added.

She stated that two days later, another major exodus occurred from the al-Mabani center, with migrants being pursued by security personnel who fired and killed an unknown number of them. At least six individuals have been killed, according to the head of the UN migration organization IOM in Libya.

“We demand that the authorities conduct prompt, thorough, impartial, and independent investigations into allegations of excessive and disproportionate use of force, including allegations of killings by security forces and affiliated armed groups, in order to hold those responsible accountable,” Hurtado said.

The UN’s remarks came as the Libyan coastguard reported that at least 15 migrants perished attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea from the country’s coasts.

The coastguard said in a statement on Tuesday that it responded to a distress call on Monday involving a wooden vessel carrying migrants and that its soldiers returned 140 survivors and the bodies of 15 individuals to a naval facility in Tripoli. The survivors had all been handed over to the police, according to the report.

Another 165 migrants were apprehended and returned to shore on the same day, the navy stated in two separate statements.

Libya has emerged as the primary transit route for individuals escaping violence and poverty in Africa and the Middle East in search of a better life in Europe since the 2011 NATO-backed rebellion that deposed and killed longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.

After setting out in dilapidated boats, several have been returned to Libya by the Libyan Coast Guard.

Human traffickers have taken advantage of the oil-rich country’s chaos and smuggled people across the country’s lengthy border with six countries, before loading them into ill-equipped rubber boats to embark a very risky journey through the Central Mediterranean Sea route.

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