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UN: Horrors Await Migrants in Libyan Detention Centers

FILE - An African migrant with his hands chained takes part in a march toward the offices of the European Union during a demonstration on Dec. 2, 2017, in central Athens, protesting against the slavery of migrants in Libya.

A United Nations report finds migrants are being subjected to what it calls unimaginable horrors from the moment they enter Libya. The report by the U.N. high commissioner for human rights has been submitted to the U.N. human rights council in Geneva.

U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour, who presented the report, says the accounts of torture and abuse suffered by refugees and migrants are among the most harrowing he has ever heard.

He says a few weeks ago, in Niger, he met with migrants and refugees recently freed from detention in Libya.

"Every one of them — women, men, boys and girls — had been raped, many repeatedly and tortured by electrocution," Gilmour said. "All testified about the widespread extortion technique, whereby the torturers force their victims to call their families, who are then subjected to the screams of their loved ones there which, they are told, will continue until they pay a ransom.”

He says the perpetrators of the atrocities include smugglers, traffickers, Libyan state officials and members of armed groups.

Hundreds of thousands of African migrants have passed through Libya in recent years, trying to reach Europe. But European countries have grown increasingly hostile to the migration and work with the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept migrant ships in the Mediterranean.

He warns that the migrants and refugees are returned to Libyan detention centers where they are tortured and subjected to other human rights violations.

Gilmour is calling for an end to restrictions that prohibit nonprofit groups from rescuing the migrants at sea. He also urges the European Union to end its support of the Libyan Coast Guard.

Libyan Charge d’affaires Adel Shaltut reacted to Gilmour’s criticism with astonishment. He said he was surprised that the report shows no appreciation for the contributions his country was making in assisting migrants who transit through Libya.

He says migrants are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse because they are illegal.