Those who escape torture are not much better off. | Source: picture alliance, AP Photo, Manu Brabo
Those who escape torture are not much better off. | Source: picture alliance, AP Photo, Manu Brabo

Human rights groups have warned that migrants and refugees that are sent back to Libya are tortured and held for ransom. A TV report now brings horrific new evidence to support the claim.

A report by British news channel Channel 4 shows new images of torture after refugees and migrants attempting to reach Europe were turned back by the Libyan coast guard.

Some migrants and refugees taken to the Khums detention center east of Tripoli were sold back to traffickers by official guards of the center. The Channel 4 report describes the process as migrants becoming human commodity. 

The report includes video footage of men and women being tortured by human smugglers. "Migrants sold back to the trafficking gangs are often tortured on camera," the report says. 

One man was tortured with molten plastic dripping onto his back, causing him to spasm violently. Another was beaten as a cinder block was placed on his midsection to keep him steady. Images show men and women crumpled in a bloodied mess, causing the broadcaster to compare these images to the torture and abuse at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

There were other pictures of torture and abuse, possibly of migrants, in response to the tweet. It is uncertain if those pictures came from Libya. 

Not just torture

If migrants and refugees are not tortured by human traffickers, they are forced to live in horrid conditions in detainment camps, the report warns.

Most people in the camps might only get one meal per day, journalist Sally Hayden points out. Some have to drink toilet water in order to survive.

Not only that, but illness runs rampant through the camps. Tuberculosis is one of the most common illnesses in the cramped camps. It is unclear from the Channel 4 report if anyone in the camps died from the potentially fatal lung disease. 

Hayden investigated for months the abuse happening in detention camps in Libya. She has received numerous testimonies by people behind walls, statement that have been verified by human rights organizations, the report says. 

Likely to continue

Members of the European Union and Arab states met in Egypt to discuss immigration last month. While Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, "salut(ed) all those here who have shouldered the burden of population displacement, helped refugees, and acted early to tackle people smuggling," the situation will likely continue to unfold in Libya.

Members of the Libyan coast guard have stationed themselves just off the coast of the country, with orders to return migrants and refugees who attempt to reach Europe. This motion is supported by European nations. Even if they are rescued by European NGO groups, it is very difficult for them to dock in Europe. Italy has blocked efforts by NGO groups to dock on its shores, especially after its populist government took power last year. 

"The new policy is to fund the Libyan coast guard with ships and training to fish the migrants and refugees out of the sea and send them back to Libya." This policy has worked, as an 80 percent drop in migrant arrivals in 2018 shows -- but at a terrible human cost. European leaders with their domestic concerns are complicit in this, the report says, and are turning a blind eye to the abuse happening in Libya.


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