Excessive “cruelty” and abuse faced by migrants in Libya have forced many of them to traverse the dangerous Mediterranean crossings in their quest to reach a safe haven in Europe, Amnesty International said in a report on Monday. The latest revelations by the organization come amid reports of fresh migrant deaths as smugglers take advantage of the calm weather to send ships full of migrants across the sea.
Migrants, who travel to the West seeking a better life, are from poor nations like Eritrea, Mali and Nigeria. They travel through Africa to reach Libya where they are forced to cross the Mediterranean in dangerously overcrowded boats. People fleeing the conflict in Syria and other parts of the Middle East have also added to the number of migrants in Libya attempting to reach Europe.
“The ghastly conditions for migrants, coupled with spiraling lawlessness and armed conflicts raging within the country, make clear just how dangerous life in Libya is today,” Philip Luther, the director for Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The situation in Libya has deteriorated since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi’s dictatorship in 2011, with the country sliding further into an all-out civil war amid two governments vying for power. Meanwhile, the so-called “people smugglers” have been feeding off the turmoil, and have accelerated their trade. They force migrants to board shaky boats that often capsize and lose power in the middle of the perilous journey of more than 300 miles.
“With no legal avenues to escape and seek safety they are forced to place their lives in the hands of smugglers who callously extort, abuse and attack them,” Luther said, urging the European Union to deploy more rescue vessels in the Mediterranean Sea while simultaneously cracking down on smugglers, AFP reported.
The Amnesty International report, which is titled “Libya is full of cruelty,” provides details about abuse, sexual violence, exploitation or religious prosecution that migrants are facing in the country. The report also cited many victims, who shared their brutal experience at the hands of smugglers, who were said to have treated migrants like “animals.”
The report, which also criticized Libya’s policy of confining illegal migrants in detention centers with terrible conditions, followed another migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean last week in which nearly 40 migrants were believed to have died.
In a separate incident, the Italian Coast Guard and other commercial vessels recently rescued more than 5,800 migrants off the Libyan coast. In 2014, more than 170,000 people illegally crossed the Mediterranean and more than 3,200 people died in the attempt. Ten times more people have reportedly died since January this year compared to the same period last year.