Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), a leading medical charity, said last week that EU aid to Libya whose main aim is to stop migrants from entering Europe is fueling a Libyan detention network that is taking advantage of the chaos in the country by facilitating kidnappings, torture and extortion. Joanne Liu, the charity’s president, described the situation for refugees and migrants in Libyan detention centers as “horrific”. Libya’s detention of migrants “must be named for what it is: a thriving enterprise of kidnapping, torture and extortion”, she wrote in the letter addressing European capitals.
The European Union has been providing funding, training and aid to Libya’s coastguard to stop smugglers from taking people in flimsy boats across the Mediterranean to Europe, which results in both less arrivals in Italy or Greece but also more migrants being sent to detention centers. Mrs. Liu, however, said that calling fewer migrant departures a success in preventing deaths in the sea and targeting smuggler networks amounts to “pure hypocrisy” or worse, “a cynical complicity” in what is really happening. She further said that migrants “are packed into dark, filthy rooms with no ventilation” in the detention centers.
Mrs. Liu said that all the people she had met “had tears in their eyes, asking again and again to get out”. Detainees reported to MSF that women are often raped and made to call family back home asking them for money to free them, while men are forced to run naked in courtyard until they collapse from exhaustion. Catherine Ray, spokeswoman for the EU’s diplomatic service, responded to the letter, saying that the EU is trying to tackle the abuses: “We are completely aware of the unacceptable, often scandalous, even inhumane conditions in which migrants are treated in reception camps in Libya. We are trying to support the organizations which have access to these camps so that they can help the migrants”.