31 de outubro de 2017

idi euaViolence and sexual assault is rife at detention centres across northern Libya, where many African migrants who dreamed of better lives are resigned to returning home
Francesco Semprini in Tripoli and Jacob Svendsen

Violence and sexual assault is rife at detention centres across northern Libya, where many African migrants who dreamed of better lives are resigned to returning home
Francesco Semprini in Tripoli and Jacob Svendsen

In the humanitarian horror that Libya has become, the migrant detention centre at Abu Salim is by no means the worst.

Migrant centres in this country, packed with thousands of people seized on the trafficking routes that criss-cross Libya, have become renowned for forced labour, beatings, torture and rape.

But in southern Tripoli, Abu Salim offers something close to respite for those who have been on the road for weeks if not months. Run by the interior ministry, it’s one of the few detention sites in Libya that journalists can safely visit. There’s a health clinic, a kitchen, dormitories and mattresses, spaces for prayer.

But there is little hope. The 150 or so migrants who are stuck here have made perilous journeys from Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Guinea, Senegal, but Abu Salim is the end of the road. It is likely to be the closest they will get to Europe. The next, final stage of their journey will be a return trip home.

Since the EU intensified efforts earlier this year to prevent African migrants from travelling north in their thousands, Libya, once a funnel to Europe, has now largely turned into a dead end. The authorities have been convinced by a string of diplomatic deals to beef up their efforts; many of the smuggling gangs too have been co-opted, for now.

Ali, a 24-year-old Nigerian who has been detained here for weeks, is resigned to going home.

“There was plenty of work at home but we were poor. My mother died and I wanted to go to Italy or Europe to ensure a better future for my dad and other brothers,” he says during a brief conversation in the Bou Slim courtyard.

He and his brother Mokhtar travelled first to Agadez in Niger, the west African hub of clandestine migration and people trafficking. They paid €300 (£267) each to cross deserts and mountains in various groups, a tortuous route towards an uncertain destination. After another interminable stop in Misrata, they paid another €300 for a berth in a Chinese-made dingy that was supposed to be leaving from Garabouli, east of Tripoli.

But the boat trip never happened. Before boarding, they were arrested by local militias and brought to Abu Salim. Detainees usually stay in the camp for between two and three months before being returned to their country of origin.

UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, estimates that there are about 30 government-run detention centres in Libya, but that doesn’t include clandestine facilities run by traffickers and militias. Several hundred thousand migrants are thought to be in the country.

“In general, conditions are really bad in these detention centers,” says UNHCR Libya chief Roberto Mignone. “At best, they are more or less functional, but serious human rights violations and sexual assaults are committed there.”

UNHCR is trying to help migrants move out of the illicit detention centres and into facilities that it manages. But the agency’s freedom to operate is limited by a parlous security situation: Mignone and his staff operate out of neighbouring Tunisia, with the help of a few dozen Libyan associates.

“The security situation is very complicated and it is frustrating not to have free access to all in need. We have no overview of the militias’ or traffickers’ detention centres or prisons,” says Mignone.

Since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in 2011, Libya has served as both a magnet and a funnel for migrants desperate to start new lives in Europe.

After record-breaking numbers of arrivals in Italy in 2016 and unprecedented numbers dying in the Mediterranean over the past two years, the EU signalled a new determination to head of the migration problem closer to the source with a series of deals with Libya earlier this year.

One part of the strategy involved the south of the country – where more than 2,500km (1,550 miles) of desert borders with Algeria, Chad, Niger and Sudan provide multiple channels north.

A series of consultations was established between the Italian interior minister, Marco Minniti, and south Libyan mayors, who represent local groups and tribes. The deal pinpointed seven “elements” to pacify the different factions, from the Tebu to the Beni Suleiman, in the name of a common commitment to halt migrant trafficking. This project was heavily supported by Ahmed Maetig, vice-president of the Libyan presidential council, and greeted warmly in southern Libya, by the mayor of Sebha, Hamed Al-Khayali.

“The project we are carrying forward now with Italy involves the development and growth of southern Libya within the framework of the fight against illegal immigration,” Khayali said.

As part of this cooperation, Italy has helped to secure the border, offered support for towns in terms of infrastructure and electricity, and has pledged to help improve employment prospects for young people. In addition, there is a scheme to train military units tied to the army of the legitimate Libyan government, specialised in operations in the south of the country.

Further north, the emphasis has been on a new Italian mission to support the Libyan coastguard in the Mediterranean, and partly through an “under the radar” deal between Italians and leading figures who control the coastline and the trafficking that occurs there. Boats no longer leave the shore, and migrants like Ali and Mokhtar are interned.

But nothing is straightforward in a country with two antagonistic governments, many fiefdoms and strongmen, few legitimate ways of earning a living and myriad trafficking groups jostling for status, territory and business.

For example, the EU diplomatic offensive succeeded, for a while, in placating the smuggling hub of Sabratha in western Libya. But since the beginning of October, different groups have been fighting hard for control of the city. Those militias that are not part of the deal with the European Union and Italy are under pressure because they lack funding.

“We have seen fighting between the different groups in Sabratha,” said Mignone. “One of them advanced and the authorities later uncovered thousands of people who were detained by smugglers. Now, they are trying to get these people to detention centres run by the government, but they are already overcrowded.”

At Abu Salim, some still talk of trying to reach Europe again; but not Ali.

“No, absolutely not,” he says. “Actually I want to ask Italy and all those who want to help to … help us live a better life in our country, with our family and our people.”

Fonte: The Guardian – 31/10/2017