Migrants in a detention center near Tripoli in Libya | Photo: ANSA/ZUHAIR ABUSREWIL
Migrants in a detention center near Tripoli in Libya | Photo: ANSA/ZUHAIR ABUSREWIL

The organization Doctors for Human Rights (MEDU) has denounced the atrocities endured by migrants inside detention centers in Libya, citing the stories recently reported by five migrants in Ragusa, Sicily.

The organization Doctors for Human Rights (MEDU) has denounced that more details are emerging about the extent of the abuse and violence endured by migrants inside Libyan detention centers controlled by Tripoli's government or by criminal groups.

On July 16 the organization published a report based on the accounts of five migrants whose testimony was gathered over the past nine months by the organization's team of doctors and psychologists in the Sicilian city of Ragusa. In a statement, MEDU explained that the five witnesses are vulnerable migrants assisted by the organization.

The migrants survived several months of detention and torture at the holding center of Al Harsha in Libya, MEDU said. The families of the five migrants had to pay a ransom for their release.

Tales of atrocities

"The witnesses not only described the atrocities committed in this illegal center, but also denounced the collusion between the criminals of Al Harsha and the militias controlling the prison Al-Nasr of Al-Zawija, which is also called Ossama Prison, under the formal control of the Libyan government," MEDU said.

"The witnesses, moreover, illustrated clearly the layout of the Al Harsha center. The lager of Al Harsha is in Al-Zawija, a coastal city located 50 kilometers west of Tripoli. It is one of the main boarding points used by traffickers to take migrants to Italy. The center is close to a mosque and is surrounded by high walls."

Migrants detained there have said the facility can hold up to 200-300 people. "The head of the lager of Al Harsha is a Libyan man called Haithem, who also owns a gas station located a few meters from the center."

This is what a migrant told MEDU's medical-psychological team on June 23: "Haithem is the name of the Libyan in charge of the informal prison of Al Harsha. He is helped by his brother Ismael: they are violent and armed and, with their group, they held me together with 300 Bangladeshi and sub-Saharan migrants. They hit me and abused me for two months. I was treated worse than an animal and they refused to give me food and water."

According to the witnesses' accounts, migrants held in Al Harsha are systematically tortured by their abductors for extortion reasons.

It is necessary to pay a ransom of €3,000/5,000 for their release. The most atrocious forms of physical and psychological torture are practiced inside the center, the report found.

According to the witnesses, the Libyan criminals of Al Harsha often demand the help of other migrants when they are torturing.

Some of the migrants who have spoken to MEDU about their experience are witnesses currently testifying in the trial.

An appeal to the Italian government

MEDU once again urged the Italian government to radically change relations with Libya in relation to migration. The organization called on the cabinet to demand the "respect of the human rights of migrants as a key condition for collaboration."

"Although it is a duty for Italy to cooperate with that country in order to contribute to its process of stabilization and democratization, our government cannot ignore in a hypocritical way the very serious human rights violations committed against tens of thousands of migrants detained in its formal and informal holding centers, nor can it ignore the role played by the Libyan coast guard in taking back thousands of people to these contemporary concentration camps. Blocking migration flows at all cost seems like the only real objective pursued today by Italy and Europe", said the organization.


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