Europe has been complicit in human rights abuses committed by Libyan authorities against refugees and migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean, Amnesty International said Tuesday.
According to a report entitled "Libya's Dark Web of Collusion," the international watchdog said that European governments are "actively supporting" a "sophisticated system" of abuse against migrants in coordination with the Libyan coast guard.
“Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya are at the mercy of Libyan authorities, militias, armed groups and smugglers often working seamlessly together for financial gain. Tens of thousands are kept indefinitely in overcrowded detention centers where they are subjected to systematic abuse,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.
The report suggested that up to 20,000 people are currently being held in Libyan detention centers for migrants, where they face torture, forced labor, extortion, and even unlawful killings.
Italy has spearheaded efforts to keep African migrants out of Europe, training and equipping the Libyan coast guard and helping finance U.N. agencies working on relief efforts in Libya.
But Amnesty International says that the money and efforts are supporting human rights abuses.
“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these abuses.”
Last week, the International Organization for Migration began the voluntary repatriation of thousands of West African migrants being held in detention centers in Libya under abusive conditions.
IOM plans to repatriate a total of 15,000 African migrants by the end of the year. Most come from Nigeria, Guinea, Mali, and Senegal.
But African Union officials say there are as many as 42 camps across Libya, housing up to 700,000 people.