Migrants crisis: Europe and the Libyan gulag

Migrants detained in Triq Aliska camp, near Tripoli. October, 2017.
Migrants detained in Triq Aliska camp, near Tripoli. October, 2017.
24 November 2017 – France Inter (Paris)

The living conditions for migrants detained in Libya on the basis of EU agreements are inhumane and unworthy of the values that Europe should be defending.

On November 14th, when the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jordanian Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, outlined conditions in the Libyan camps where unfortunate migrants headed for Europe are detained, he did nothing to hide his sense of outrage. Before addressing the reasons for his outrage, we should take a brief look at why the camps were created.

They are a recent development, created at the time when the European Union managed to slow the arrival of refugees and economic migrants in Greece thanks to an agreement with Turkey. Receiving financial assistance for holding these migrants on its territory, Turkey agreed to control and prevent their passage to the Greek islands, and, by extension, the EU.

There is little to reproach this agreement, since the migrants are adequately treated in Turkey, and the number of deaths by drowning has been significantly reduced. But the problem is, with the route being blocked between Turkey and Greece, traffickers are proposing Libya as an alternative route for migrants who still have their sights set on Europe.

The Libyan route has become a highway. The arrivals in Italy are on the rise again, and, soon followed by the EU acting in the name of its member states, Italian authorities sought help from Libyan coast-guards, charging them with stopping the flow of migrants into Europe.

The policy was pursued in order to reduce the number of drownings and close the borders to economic migrants who have no right to asylum. But this means that political refugees have no way to request asylum (as is their right), and migrants are placed at the mercy of coast-guards who pocket European money and behave like criminals.

The camps they’ve created for holding migrants (delivered by traffickers) are dumping grounds where there is no medical care, people die of hunger, and the jailers rape the women and beat everyone without reason. “The European Union policy which consists in helping the Libyan coast-guards intercept migrants is inhumane”, declared the UN high-commissioner.

“The suffering of these detainees is an outrage to humanity”, he added, speaking of “thousands of emaciated, traumatised men, women and children, piled on top of one another [...] and stripped of their human dignity”. Of course there is no easy solution to the migration crisis, but what’s going on in Libya, thanks to European money, is unacceptable and utterly horrendous.

Listen to Bernard Guetta's radio op-ed :

CNN's reporting on migrants sold as slaves in a "market" near Tripoli:

Translated from the French by Ciaran Lawless

Factual or translation error? Tell us.