African migrants intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard on a dinghy that had had difficulties at sea west of Tripoli and was taken back to Libya | Photo: ARCHIVE/ANSA/ZUHAIR ABUSREWIL
African migrants intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard on a dinghy that had had difficulties at sea west of Tripoli and was taken back to Libya | Photo: ARCHIVE/ANSA/ZUHAIR ABUSREWIL

A report published by the Migrantes Foundation of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) underscored a sharp rise in the detention of migrants in Libyan centers this year. Official centers alone were holding some 10,000 in early October, compared with about 1,100 in January, the report stated.

Between January 1 and November 6 this year, the Libyan coast guard has intercepted at sea and taken back to Libyan territory some 28,600 refugees and migrants -- an unprecedented number.

The total since 2016 is over 100,000 people, according to the 2021 report on asylum rights by the Migrantes Foundation of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) presented on Tuesday, November 14.

"Since the beginning of the year and as of November 8," the report stated, "about 56,700 refugees and migrants managed to arrive in Italy or Malta using the central Mediterranean route. This is fewer than half the number of those intercepted and taken back to Libya, often using brutal methods."

This year has seen another sharp rise in people detained arbitrarily in Libyan detention centers, the report said. In early October, 10,000 men, women and children were held in 'official' centers, compared with about 1,100 in January.

'Prisoners subjected to torture, violence, and abuse'

Over the summer, the UN secretary general and UNSMIL (the UN mission in Libya) once again denounced how migrants detained in the centers continue to be subjected to torture, violence, and abuse, including insufficient food and a lack of assistance.

The report stated that the Italian think tank Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale (ISPI) had monitored the beginning and end of 67 incidents of 'stalled' ships with migrants onboard that had been rescued in the Mediterranean between 2018 and October 22, 2021. "Following hardship, wastes of time and resources, tensions and performative political propaganda, 49 out of the 67 ended in Italy."

Only 9% 'saved' by NGOs and volunteers in Mediterranean

Between August 2020 and July 2021, out of 49,280 refugees and migrants that landed in Italy, only 4,239 -- or barely 9% -- were rescued by NGO vessels, the report said. That's fewer than one in every ten.

Between 2016 and mid-June 2021, 30 ships and three reconnaissance aircraft run by NGOs from 11 countries were involved in search and rescue operations.

Of these 33, 22 reportedly had legal proceedings started against them.

State not involved in migrant assistance on Italy-France border

In northern Italy, meanwhile, the state is not involved in assisting and receiving migrants, the report claimed.

At the threshold of the 2021-2022 winter, on both sides of the Italian-French border, assistance to and reception of migrants 'in transit' "continues to weigh most heavily on volunteers, civil society, and private resources amid serious institutional lack of interest (with occasional 'criminalisation of solidarity, as well)," the report noted.

The only facilities still open in the upper Valsusa, the Rifugio Fraternità Massi of Oulx, recorded 4,437 migrants passing through between March and July 2021. They were of over 60 different non-EU nationalities.

One third of them were Afghans (1,547), among them numerous families that arrived "worn down by hardships and violence experienced on the Balkan route."

 

More articles