Libya’s ‚Concentration Camps‘: Scores of Migrants Rescued in Sicily, Malta & North Macedonia

Written by | Thursday, July 9th, 2020

The situation in present-era detention centres for migrants and refugees in Libya can be compared with Nazi-era concentration camps, Pope Francis said on Wednesday (7 July), adding that the world was being given only a diluted version of how hellish life really is for the people living there. Thousands of refugees and migrants are reported to be held in 11 “official” detention centres across the country, as well as “private prisons” run by armed groups and traffickers where extortion, abuse and rape are rampant. “Yes, there is a war [in Libya] and we know that is ugly, but you cannot imagine the hell that people live there in those lagers of detention,” said the pope, who has made the defence of migrants a significant part of his seven-year-old papacy. There are reportedly more than 40,000 refugees and migrants in Libya, which acts as a major gateway for African migrants hoping to reach Europe.
As the pope spoke on the Italian island of Lampedusa, hundreds of migrants were being rescued from seas off the nearby islands of Sicily and Malta. Nearly 200 migrants and refugees rescued by a humanitarian aid boat in the Mediterranean Sea began to leave the vessel in Sicily earlier this week after spending nine days on the ship. Police escorted them a short distance to another vessel, where they have been quarantined to prevent the possible spread of coronavirus. The arrival of the rescue vessel chartered by charity group SOS Mediterranee came after a tense few days on board marked by refugees jumping overboard, bouts of violence and a suicide attempt. Another group of 50 migrants of mostly Somali and Djibouti origin who were rescued at sea and stranded in unsanitary conditions on a Lebanese animal transport ship for five days has been allowed to disembark in Malta. The MV Talia had picked them up off the coast of Libya last week before being refused permission to take them to the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Meanwhile, yet another group of 211 migrants, including 63 minors, were found by a border patrol, all packed into a truck, during a routine check in North Macedonia near the country’s southern border with Greece. The migrants – 144 from Bangladesh and 67 from Pakistan – were detained and transferred to a shelter transit centre in the town of Gevgelija pending deportation back to Greece, while the truck driver, a 27-year-old Macedonian national, was arrested. Although the Greek border with North Macedonia was closed earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, trafficking networks remain active in the area, ferrying migrants who make their way from Turkey into Greece and then head north towards more prosperous countries in the European Union’s centre and north.

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