From file: Migrants in a detention center in Libya | Photo: EPA/STR
From file: Migrants in a detention center in Libya | Photo: EPA/STR

Dozens of migrants were reportedly rounded up in the Libyan capital, Tripoli on Monday. Such raids have become more regular, as migrants stuck in Libya are increasingly being scapegoated for the country's problems.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that security forces conducted a series of raids on migrant homes, resulting in "many" migrants being detained. The police did not specify just how many migrants had been taken into custody, however, authorities did release pictures showing several dozen migrants surrounded by armed security personnel. 

In a statement, the police also said that legal measures would be taken against those who were arrested, but failed to highlight what kind of measures that would entail. AP said that it contacted a government spokesperson for comment but did not receive any answer.

The operation reportedly came in response to increasing crime rates in the area, where the raids took place. The police said that prostitution, robbery and drug trafficking were all on the rise, blaming migrants for the alleged trend — without offering proof, however.

It is assumed that the migrants were taken to detention centers around the capital city, Tripoli. Rights advocates say that these detention centers are notorious for their squalid state and inhumane living conditions, with increasing numbes of reports of serious human rights abuses taking place at these facilities published in recent years.

Read more: Human rights organizations denounce Libya-EU cooperation agreements on five-year anniversary

A cover-up operation?

The raids on the migrant dwellings are part of an ongoing crackdown on migrants living in Libya, which has become the main transit point for migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

The mood against migrants is turning sour in Libya, as even a decade after the toppling of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi the country continues to struggle amid a state of disarray. The rule of law only applies to a few parts of the fourth-largest country on the African continent, and migrants are often blamed for the overall deterioration of public life and services.

At the weekend, two migrants working as garbage collectors in the same area the raids were conducted, were hit by a car and died. Tarik Lamloum, a Libyan activist working with the Belaady Organization for Human Rights, said that the arrests on Monday served as a "cover-up" for the killing of the two migrants. 

"Most migrants in the area are workers in workshops and farms, not criminals as they say," Lamloum told AP.

Read more: UN investigates suspected mass migrant graves in Libya

Authorities collaborating with criminal groups

Authorities detained a total of over 5,000 migrants in Libya in 2021 alone, justifying their actions as a campaign against drug trafficking and human trafficking. However, there are many reports of Libyan officials also being actively involved in facilitating the smuggling of people over the Mediterranean to Europe.

The UN has sharply condemned the operations against migrants, saying that the clampdowns involve abuses such as harassment, beatings and shootings. UN officials have also said they've witnessed abuses at the kind of government-run detention centers, where the migrants were taken after the police raid. 

Criminal gangs often work in cahoots with authorities at these facilities, exploiting migrants either for labor or forced sex, or extorting them and their families for ransom. There have been reports of executions of those who cannot manage to cough up the money to be released.

Read more: Migrant journeys from Tunisia and Libya end in tragedy

with AP


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