At least 6,000 migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and other nations are locked in dozens of detention facilities in Libya run by militias accused of torture and other abuses. The detention centers have limited food and other supplies for the migrants, who often end up there after arduous journeys at the mercy of abusive traffickers who hold them for ransom money from families back home.
In the desert of western Libya, hundreds of African migrants were held for months in a hangar filled with maggot-covered garbage and sewage. They shared a couple of buckets of water between them and barely survived on one meal a day. More than 20 died from disease and hunger, they said. The migrants and their advocates accused U.N. aid agencies of turning a blind eye or responding too slowly to their plight. The U.N refugee agency, or UNHCR, denies it’s been unresponsive, saying it has been unable to access parts of the facility, run by one of Libya’s many militias. The commander in charge of the facility denied there was any lack of access. Internal memos and emails leaked to The Associated Press also show disagreement among the UNHCR and other aid agencies over conditions at the site in the town of Zintan, with one NGO working on behalf of UNHCR denying there was lack of food, even as it acknowledged it hadn’t been able to see the majority of migrants held there. The suffering of the migrants held in Zintan underscores the impact of the European Union’s effective yet much-criticized policy of blocking Africans from sailing across the Mediterranean to its shores and keeping them in Libya. Funded and trained by the EU, Libyan border guards have been stepping up efforts to stop migrants from crossing. As a result, thousands of migrants are trapped in a country thrown into chaos by war. At least 6,000 are locked up in
Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter said in a meeting on Wednesday with French President Emmanuel Macron that he cannot work toward a cease-fire because he has no one with whom to negotiate. Hifter opened a military offensive on the Libyan capital of Tripoli in early April despite commitments to move toward elections in the North African country. Libya is divided between Khalifa Hifter, whose self-styled Libyan National Army controls the east and much of the south, and Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, who runs the U.N.-supported but weak government in Tripoli. During a more than hour-long closed door meeting, Macron asked Hifter to work toward a cease-fire and a return to the political process, according to a statement from Macron’s office. When the question of a cease-fire is put on the table, “the reaction of … Hifter is ‘with whom can I negotiate a ceasefire today?’ ” an official of the presidential Elysee Palace said. Hifter considers the Sarraj government is being eaten from within by armed militias and considers “it’s not for him (Hifter) to negotiate with representatives of these militias,” the official said. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the delicate talks and asked to remain anonymous. The closed-door meeting came two weeks after Macron hosted Libya’s struggling U.N.-backed prime minister, who has denounced Hifter’s offensive as an attempted coup. Macron’s office has expressed support for Sarraj. The official rejected claims that France is secretly backing Hifter, saying that France is trying “to create a dynamic” between
Eastern-based Libyan forces led by Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive in April on the capital Tripoli in the west that has plunged the oil-producing nation into a new bout of conflict.
Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) has faced fierce resistance from forces loyal to the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, threatening fresh disruption to the OPEC state’s energy industry.
The renewed risk to Libyan output has supported oil prices that are already trading close to six-month highs.
As a major oil supplier to Europe and starting point for migrant flows to Italy, much is at stake if the country slips further into turmoil.