Migrants hold protest demanding relocation from Libya

A group of migrants, mostly Ethiopian and Eritrean, recently held a protest in Libya.

The migrants say they arrived in Libya in 2015 as a group of 120 to attempt the journey to Europe, but found themselves in the hands of kidnappers who tried to sell them to traffickers. They were eventually freed by Libyan security forces but due to fears of kidnapping, torture and death, they want to leave Libya as soon as possible.

Forcing open the doors of a detention centre where they were being held, they demanded help from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for to help them relocate.

According to reports, the migrants began marching towards Tripoli after breaking free from the detention centre, which is about 20 kilometres away. Many migrants are held in detention centres run by the Interior Ministry’s Department for Combating Illegal Immigration or local militias if their boats are intercepted at sea or they are found to be attempting the journey to Europe. These centres are often in poor condition, overcrowded with insufficient food, water and medicine.

In the past three months alone, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that the number of migrants in detention centres has doubled. With news of security forces colluding with criminal gangs to sell migrants spreading across Libya, migrants say they want to leave the country as soon as possible.

The detainees posted photos and videos of the protest on Facebook on Sunday August 12, in the hopes that they would be shared widely.

One of the protesters, a twenty-two-year-old Ethiopian migrant, referred to as Aman, told France24: “For the past three months, we’ve been trapped in a detention centre in the village of Qasr Ben Ghashir [located about 25 kilometres to the south of Tripoli].” He added that UNHCR staff had visited them and taken down their names when they first arrived at the detention centre in May. “But we haven’t heard from them since,” he said.

“The kidnappers would sell us to traffickers. These men would film themselves torturing us with electricity and send the videos to our friends and family to extort money from them. They would ask for anything from US$1,000 to US$6,000,” Aman said. “The worst was that, even after they received the ransom, the kidnappers refused to release us.”

“We just want to leave this hell as quickly as possible. We don’t care where we go next. That is why we are begging the UNHCR to accelerate the procedure for evacuating us.”

The number of refugees around the world seeking resettlement far exceeds the number of places available. UNHCR estimates that the number of refugees around the world waiting for resettlement in another country will reach 1.4 million in 2019.

TMP – 03/09/2018

Photo Credit: Screenshot of a video posted by migrants of their protest on Facebook on Sunday, 12 August.