Grave abuses of young migrants in Libyan detentions centers

Young migrants, refugees and asylum seekers experience systematic abuse in Libya. They are subjected to arbitrary detention under dire conditions for months at a time. And this is one of the main reasons why migrants and refugees are fleeing Libya by boats towards Europa. These are the findings in a new report from the Mixed Migration Hub, behind which The Danish Refugee Council is one of the main actors.

“The guards had weapons and beat us every day. They made us take off our clothes, lie down and then they beat us. For every day in nine months,” says Ali, a 23 year old male asylum-seeker from Somalia.

The situation in Libya is gradually getting completely out of control. Two different governments and a number of militias are fighting over power in the country on the edge of civil war. The country is in chaos and no legal system is in place to handle the cases from the many migrants, refugees and asylum seekers who are in Libya. Many of whom are experiencing serious human rights abuses, violence and other abuses.

"Sadly, it confirms the picture we for some time have had off the situation in Libya. It is a country in chaos, and hence the people with the fewest rights are being harmed to most. The report shows a wide range of violent abuses and violations of rights in some of Libya most notorious detention centers. The report also confirms the picture of the disastrous situation in Libya is a contributing factor to the growing number of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees who are willing to risk the lives in the Mediterranean to reach safety in Europe. What they come from, is simply worse than the dangerous trip in the boats," says Ann Mary Olsen, International Director, the Danish Refugee Council.

Ali, aged 23, from Southern Somalia originally fled after the terror group Al-Shabaab had conquered his hometown and had shot his father and three of his siblings. He fled to Kenya, but one day he received a threatening phone call from a guy who claimed to be from Al-Shabaab, and thus he continued his flight.

“Problems started when we got to the border with Libya. We were attacked by a group of Libyans; they hit us with guns and sticks, raped two of the women in front of everyone, and ran off with all our money and possessions. We were also stopped by smugglers who demanded money. The police then turned up and took us to a detention centre for being in Libya without documents. I was kept there for nine months.”

“The guards had weapons and beat us every day. They made us take off our clothes, lie down and then they beat us. For every day in nine months,” says Ali.

He was detained in a detention facility which he called ‘Duishi’ in Tripoli 2012 to 2013. He was interviewed in Malta in December 2014. The name ‘Ali’ is a pseudonym.

"The report confirms, first, that we have to deal with the increasing degree of mixed migration - that people move for a variety of reasons. In the detention centers in Libya, nobody distinguishes between whether people are in need of protection or not. But it also confirms that we in Europe cannot close in around ourselves and believe that the refugee problem will disappear by itself. We need to proactively decide to help these people in need. It requires joint European solutions," says Ann Mary Olsen.

The report draws on in-depth interviews with 45 former detainees (85 per cent of whom were unaccompanied children or young people). The fieldwork was conducted between November 2014 and February 2015 in Italy, Malta, France and the UK.

Read the full report Detained youth. The fate of young migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees in Libya today here