The feet of a group of migrants in Libya | Photo: DW/K.Zurutuza
The feet of a group of migrants in Libya | Photo: DW/K.Zurutuza

A young Nigerian man was burned alive in Libya earlier this week, according to UN and government officials. The men accused of setting him on fire have been arrested. An investigation into the incident is under way.

"We are horrified by the killing of a Nigerian migrant worker in Tripoli, Libya by three men [on Tuesday]" tweeted Federico Soda, the UN Migration Agency (IOM)'s Chief of Mission in Libya. "The young man was burned alive, in yet again another senseless crime against migrants in the country," continued Soda. "Those responsible must be held to account."

The man's death was confirmed by both UN and Libyan government officials on Wednesday, October 7. Libya's interior minister told the news agency AP that three men had "stormed a factory in the Tripoli neighborhood of Tajoura, where African migrants were working."

'No motive for the crime given'

The three men are Libyan and thought to be in their thirties. According to the interior ministry, they detained one of the workers, a Nigerian man, poured gasoline on him and set him on fire. There was no motive for the crime given.

According to the interior ministry statement, as reported by AP, three other migrants were also injured in the incident and suffered burns. They are now being treated at a nearby hospital.

Another UN spokesperson in Libya, Stephane Dujarric, commented on the crime: "Sometimes you run out of adjectives to describe what we see in all too many places." Dujarric added that "This underscores, as if we needed to underscore yet again, how unsafe Libya is for migrants, for refugees, and how much the authorities on the ground still need to do to ensure the protection of these vulnerable people."

Migrant deaths in Libya

Sadly, this is not the first attack on migrants in Libya this year. For 2020, the IOM recorded 398 deaths in the Mediterranean sea up to August. In addition to that, about 9,500 migrants who attempted to cross the Mediterranean towards Europe were returned to Libya this year, often by the Libyan coast guard, which received funding from the European Union in order to carry out "search and rescue activities" in its SAR designated zone in the Mediterranean.

AP reports that in July, Libyan authorities shot dead three Sudanese migrants in the western coastal town of Khoms. According to that agency, the migrants were trying to escape after being brought back to Libya by the Libyan coast guard after their attempt to cross the sea.

In May this year, about 30 mostly Bangladeshi migrants were also reportedly shot dead by the family of a Libyan migrant smuggler who had been killed.

Migrants and IDPs in Libya

According to the IOM’s latest figures from August 2020 there are about 600,362 migrants in Libya at the moment. The voluntary return program for the country started up again towards the end of August after a five month break due to coronavirus restrictions. The IOM said that 1,362 migrants were returned to Libya in August alone.

The agency continues to provide direct assistance to migrants in detention centers and urban areas but the numbers it helps hover around the 3,000-5,000 mark per month and reach no where near the number of migrants and internally displaced people in the country.

The majority of those migrants returned to Libya after an attempted crossing are Sudanese, with Bangladeshis following close behind. Since June, the numbers of those being returned to Libya are slightly greater than the monthly equivalent figures in 2019.

With AP and Reuters


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