CAIRO (AP) — A guard withholds water from a barefoot migrant kneeling in front of him. An emaciated man lies on the ground while a thermostat reads a broiling 43 degrees Celsius. Refugees cower to the ground as bullets whiz by.
These rough pencil sketches by an Eritrean refugee offer a glimpse of the brutal reality of Libya’s migrant detention centers, where thousands have been locked away for months or even years. Most are there after failing to make the perilous crossing to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea.
The artist asked to only be identified by his nickname, Aser, because he fears reprisals from militias for speaking out about what he says are “nightmare conditions” inside the centers. In a country with no functioning government, it is often competing militias who run the detention centers and make money off migrants.
The drawings are based on what Aser, 28, witnessed inside several migrant facilities in Tripoli between September 2017 and October this year. At night, he recalls, he awoke to the sounds of militiamen dragging migrants from their sleep and beating them to get ransoms from their families, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Guards withheld food, water and medicine for the same reason.
Libya’s migrant detention centers are rife with abuse, and many have gotten caught in the crossfire of the country’s civil war. One drawing depicts refugees in the crossfire between forces of military commander Khalifa Hifter and militias allied with the United Nations-supported government in Tripoli.
Libya became a major crossing point for migrants to Europe after the death of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, but Europe now sends money for Libya to prevent migrants from reaching its shores. With increased reports of torture and abuse inside detention centers, Europe’s policy of supporting the Libyan coast guard as it intercepts fleeing migrants has come under growing criticism.
Aser says that often, the only drinking water available inside the hangars where he was kept was a few buckets of water for hundreds of people. He and others went weeks without seeing sunlight, and the crowded centers became breeding grounds for disease. At the last facility where he was held, Abu Salim, he and another migrant, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said two Eritreans died from what they believed to be tuberculosis.
Aser’s journey began more than four years ago, when he escaped forced military conscription in Ethiopia, considered among the world’s most repressive governments. He made his way through Ethiopia and Sudan, and paid $6,000 to traffickers in Libya to secure a place on a boat to Europe. But the vessel was intercepted by the Libyan coast guard.
He ended up in Tripoli in September 2017 and was placed in the first of three centers. Visiting workers from Doctors Without Borders, or MSF, provided him with pencils and paper, and he worked out of the sight of guards. He sometimes hid the drawings with other migrants, and took photos of some sketches before destroying them.
In late October, Aser fled to an already overcrowded United Nations-run facility with hundreds of other detainees. Now his hope is that he can be one of the few to qualify for asylum, who are put on flights via Niger and Rwanda to Europe.
In the meantime, he says, his only escape is art.
“I dream that one day I can move out of Libya to develop my skill by gaining additional education,” he said.
IOM launches open South America portal
Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Open South America, available in Spanish, English and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.
The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.
The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.
Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.
“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.
“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.
29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM
The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.
About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.
Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.
He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.
Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.
“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”
Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.
“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.
Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.
The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.
FG condemns killing of Nigerian footballer in UK
The Federal government has condemned the alleged killing of a Nigerian Footballer, Kelvin Igweani, by the UK police.
Recall that Igweani, a Nigerian Footballer, was shot dead by officers, who attended a call out to a house, where a child was found with serious injuries.
Reacting, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in Abuja on Wednesday described the incident as very unfortunate,and sad.
Dabiri-Erewa condoled with the family of the deceased and the Nigerian communities in the UK while praying that God grants rest to the soul of the departed.
“We call on the UK government for a thorough and proper investigation to be carried out on the incident,” the statement added.
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