Libya: migrants detained for profit

Libya’s government is profiting from migrant detention centres, according to a leaked report from the EU. The report admitted that the detention of migrants has become a “profitable business model” for Libyan authorities.

The 13-page leaked document details the widespread human rights violations inside the detention centres that migrants face, most of whom have been picked up by the Libyan coastguard. 

While the document calls for “immediate action” to save the lives of migrants in Libya, it also applauds the Libyan government’s “progress achieved” in minimising the number of irregular migrants reaching European shores. 

The report, labeled as restricted access, disclosed concerning information regarding the nearly 5,000 migrants held in several official and unofficial detention facilities. Some of the centres are said to be run by militia.

The report explained that some detention centres do not follow a proper registration for migrants, allow issues such as corruption and bribery to take place. Some camps have also been linked to human trafficking. 

The EU and Italy provide financial assistance, training and boats to the Libyan coastguard  to aid in migrant interception in the Mediterranean. These arrangements have been criticised as aiming only to reduce the number of migrant arrivals to Europe without considering the safety and wellbeing of these migrants. 

Despite aid from the EU, the Government of Libya has failed to improve the situation in the camps or deal with the regular reports of disappearances of people picked up by the Libyan coastguard. 

“The government’s reluctance to address the problems raises the question of its own involvement,” the report says, and this is “closely linked to the widely reported human rights violations that take place in the detention centres and to the fact that the facilities form a profitable business model for the current Libyan government.”

The European Parliament’s civil liberties committee has decided to investigate EU officials after the release of the document. 

Sophie in ‘t Veld, a Dutch Minister of European Parliament on the committee, said about the EU-Libya agreement: “So maybe fewer people have drowned, fewer have reached the shores of Europe. But instead countless people died in the desert, were sold on slave markets, were tortured, raped and starved in Libyan detention camps, or were caught amidst violent conflict.”

TMP 22/11/2019

Photo credit Bumble Dee/

Photo caption Military uniform, Libyan army