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Eritrean migrants face torture in Libya: What the international community can do

Eritrean migrants face torture in Libya

Tens of thousands of East and West African migrants face violence, abuse, torture and loss of life as they transit through Libya to reach the Mediterranean.

Are the migrants victims of human smuggling, human trafficking or neither? In the absence of a stable government in Libya, what can European countries do to prevent the loss of life and torture of migrants in Libya?

As a crime against humanity, the international community is obligated to protect these migrants under the United Nations responsibility to protect commitment, meaning that international states should take action to collectively protect migrants in Libya.

We have been researching irregular migration, migrant smuggling and human trafficking from Asia and Africa to Europe for several years. Our research has made us aware of the complexities of the realities on the ground for migrants. We compared those realities with international conventions and policy categories designed to help migrants.

Despite the torture and extortion that these transit migrants may face, they cannot benefit from some form of protection, upon arrival in Europe. This is because they lack a clear codified status corresponding to their situation.

Smuggled, trafficked or neither?

Migrant smuggling involves a voluntary agreement between a prospective migrant and a smuggler, at least in theory. The smuggler facilitates the irregular transit and entry into a country, the migrant pays for their services. Their relationship finishes at the completion of the agreed journey.

By contrast, human trafficking involves an element of deception and coercion and also exploitation at the place of arrival not present in migrant smuggling. Again, this is in theory. Also, trafficking does not require the crossing of international borders.

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According to the UN definition of human trafficking, acts can include recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons. These are all acts that are also involved in the smuggling of migrants.

But the purpose of these acts may not be simply about profit. They also involve exploitation such as sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or the removal of organs.

These definitions and the distinction that arises from them tend to become meaningless in situations such as those along the trans-Saharan African routes where there are no clear state authorities.

Although many migrants pass through Libya, our most recent study looked specifically at the experiences of Eritrean migrants coming to Italy via Libya. Our research does not represent all migrants in Libya.

Eritrean migrants enter Libya in the southeast; this is Tebou territory. Since the fall of Muammar el-Qaddafi and the end of his 42-year-long brutal regime in 2011, Libya has been ruled by tribal regimes and the Tebou have strong control over their territory.

Eritrean migrants face torture in Libya

Migration controls are enforced by para-state actors such as the different tribes and their semi-formal accords with the UN-recognized government of Libya as well as other tribes and actors in the country.

Kidnapped and extorted

Eritreans leaving Sudan for Libya know and expect that they will be kidnapped and extorted in Libya. There is no deception involved. They are brought to the Libyan-Sudanese border by smugglers from Khartoum and are told to wait.

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When the Libyans arrive, they are taken to compounds where they call their families and connections to transfer money for their release. They are not allowed to leave until their family pays. Many are abused while they wait for the payment.

READ ALSO: Nigerian girl held captive in Lebanon cries for help

Once the payment is made, most often, the Eritrean migrants are brought North and pushed toward the Mediterranean sea. When they arrive in Italy, the ordeal is over and they no longer have a relationship with their captors in Libya.

We argue that this is not migrant smuggling as there is no initial agreement made between two parties. This is also not human trafficking — there is no deception nor coercion and the relationship ends after leaving Libya. This is kidnapping and extortion, and can best be addressed as a crime against humanity.

What can the international community do?

What are the moral and international law obligations for countries of arrival when migrants or asylum seekers have been victims of a crime against humanity?

Can we break free from the migrant smuggling and human trafficking definitions and adopt an international protection regime for these migrants or asylum seekers when they arrive in European Union territory?

Today, Libya witnesses the emergence of a tribal regime that has replaced the state and has its own informal rules. Libya’s history is based on tribal authorities that were united for its independence in 1951 and were carefully managed and appeased under Muammar el-Qaddafi. Post-Qaddafi, we note the return of the tribe as an important political actor.

READ  Nigeria evacuates 160 stranded citizens from US

Paradoxically, out of fear of uncontrolled migration, actors like the International Organization for Migration and the European Union provide operational support in Libya and Niger, hoping to re-establish the basic rule of law conditions and control the borders.

This effectively, however, contributes to the reinforcement of the tribal regime by indirectly legitimizing tribal authorities.

As the EU seeks a durable solution to the Mediterranean migration flows, countries of arrival could adopt an international protection regime for these migrants or asylum seekers when they arrive in European Union territory and protect people who have been victims of crimes against humanity.

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Over 140 migrants perish in deadliest shipwreck of the year

A group of suspected migrants are brought to shore by Border Force officers at the Port of Dover in Kent after a number of small boat incidents in the Channel in September. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

At least 140 people have drowned after a vessel carrying around 200 migrants sank off the Senegalese coast, the deadliest shipwreck recorded in 2020.

According to media sources, the Senegalese and Spanish navies, and fishermen who were nearby, rescued 59 people and retrieved the remains of 20 others.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is deeply saddened by this recent tragedy, which follows four shipwrecks recorded in the Central Mediterranean last week and another in the English Channel.

“We call for unity between governments, partners and the international community to dismantle trafficking and smuggling networks that take advantage of desperate youth,” said Bakary Doumbia, IOM Senegal Chief of Mission.

“It is also important that we advocate for enhanced legal channels to undermine the traffickers’ business model and prevent loss of life.”

READ  Nigerian governor resettles over 1,000 IDPs after attack on his convoy

Local community members told IOM the vessel left Mbour, a coastal town in western Senegal on Saturday (24/10) bound for the Canary Islands. The boat caught fire a few hours after departure and capsized near Saint-Louis, on Senegal’s northwest coast.

The Government of Senegal and IOM have arranged a mission to travel to Saint-Louis to assess the needs of survivors and provide immediate psychosocial assistance.

The number of departures from West Africa to the Canary Islands has significantly increased in recent weeks.

IOM Senegal has been monitoring departures from the coast with the assistance of members of the community since the beginning of September. In September alone, 14 boats carrying 663 migrants left Senegal for the Canary Islands. Of these departures, 26 per cent were reported to have experienced an incident or shipwreck.

IOM estimates there have been roughly 11,000 arrivals to the Canary Islands this year compared to 2,557 arrivals during the same period last year. This is still far below peaks seen in 2006 when over 32,000 people arrived.

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With this tragic shipwreck, at least 414 people are known to have died along this route in 2020 according to IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, which recorded 210 fatalities there in all of 2019.

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Displaced Yemen children at risk of the deadly impacts of severe food insecurity  

Migrants near Budapest

The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Acute Malnutrition analysis released today by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and other partners is extremely concerning. With limited access to food, humanitarian services and health care, displaced children in Yemen are at risk of the deadly impacts of severe food insecurity.

Around 26 per cent of the more than 156,000 people newly displaced this year, in the areas where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has access, cited food as their main need. This is the second most cited need after shelter and housing, which 65 per cent of people reported as their main need. In areas where there are higher levels of displacement, like Al Hudaydah, Taizz, Al Dhale’e and Marib, higher levels of food needs have also been reported.

“Displaced Yemenis leave their homes with nothing and often find themselves seeking safety in locations where there are no job opportunities and barely enough services, including health care,” said Christa Rottensteiner, IOM Chief of Mission for Yemen.

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“This can leave vulnerable people without enough food to feed their families. Given that UN partners are reporting that acute malnutrition rates among children under five are the highest ever recorded in parts of Yemen, we are extremely worried about children in displaced families.”

The situation in Marib is particularly concerning given that an escalation in hostilities has displaced over 90,000 people to the city and caused a drastic shortage of services. Displaced people in Marib report food to be one of their most urgent needs. Of the displacement sites assessed by IOM in October, some reported that food shortages were a major concern for approximately 50 per cent of their residents.

In response to food insecurity, the emergency aid kits distributed under the Rapid Response Mechanism by IOM to newly displaced families include emergency food rations. IOM also carries out livelihood support activities for displaced communities to help them generate income. Most recently the Organization supported displaced women in making face masks which help their community combat the spread of COVID-19.

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IOM also operates a health centre in Al Jufainah Camp, Yemen’s largest displacement site, and multiple mobile health clinics. In addition to providing primary health care services to over 55 per cent of displaced people in Marib, IOM’s mobile health clinics provide community level access to malnutrition screening for children under the age of five and referral for treatment, in coordination with UNICEF. Given the high demand for such nutritional support, early intervention is vital to reducing avoidable morbidity and mortality among displaced children.

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Nigerians in Spain say no to genocide

Nigerians resident in Spain have kicked against bad governance and brutalitalisation of innocent citizens by security operatives in Nigeria.

They are in solidarity with the #Endsars protesters.

The #Endsars protest  started by young Nigerians to say no to brutality, impunity and gruesome killings in the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the government in the country saw security operatives using live bullets on the protesters last week, October 21, 2020.

In a statement signed by Afolabi Oloko, the Nigerians in Spain said: “In every part  of the world, including Nigeria, we believe protesting is a fundamental right of all citizenry that we can exercise whenever we deem it fit as long as it is civil and devoid of violence but such is not the case in Nigeria where the young future of the country are murdered by their very own government just because they made demands that there must be a reform to the notorious Police department and that the country be reformed in general. Have they asked for too much from a responsible and responsive government?

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“It is so disheartening that after Ten days that the youth refused to back down they resorted to killing, maiming of their own future generations just because they asked and begged for good governance and good policing. It’s a shame that young people are being killed all around the cities of Nigeria from Lagos, Abeokuta, Ibadan, Abuja, Ondo , Benin, Porthacort just to mention a few. It was horrendous seeing over seventy people being murdered at night while still protesting unarmed peacefully in Lekki area of Lagos state. They organised by switching off the street light while they carried out their evil deed against defenceless young people of the country and also took away the CCTV. The commander-in-chief of the Armed forces in person of President Muhamodu Buhari must be tried at the International court for genocide against it’s own people.

“We the compatriots far away in Spain are with our young brothers and sister on the streets saying no to bad governance as you’re in our hearts and prayers. We support you in the just cause you’re are fighting. Fighting for one’s future should not be seen as an affront to the authorities, rather they should look inward and realise that the system is rotten and should be cleansed but not killing innocent young men on the streets with Army being deployed to take lives of vibrant and resourceful, frustrated and change hungry citizens.
“Today, we came out in multitude in solidarity with our compatriots back home to say #ENDSARS! #ENDBADGOVERNANCE #ENDPOLICEBRUTALITY #ENDCORUPTION #ENDTHEGENOCIDE”

READ  Nigeria postpones international flight resumption

 

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