Authorities in Libya have raided a secret prison this week, freeing at least 156 African migrants from human traffickers.
As reported in the Associated Press, at least six traffickers were arrested and referred to prosecutors for further investigation after a migrant escaped the makeshift prison and reported to authorities that he and many others were being tortured by human traffickers.
Since the country was plunged into a destabilising civil war in 2011, Libya has become a major transit point for African and Arab migrants attempting to reach Europe.
Human traffickers have exploited this instability, often packing desperate families into makeshift rafts to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
Those rescued in this week’s raid were from Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan and were taken to a shelter where they were provided with food, clothes, and blankets.
Since the start of the year, the U.N. International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that roughly 3,600 migrants have been intercepted trying to cross into Europe over the Mediterranean Sea.
In the last week alone, 1,315 have been stopped and returned to Libya, where they are taken to squalid detention centers run by militias that have been linked to Libyan authorities and funded by the European Union.
Freedom United is urgently calling on the E.U. to cease funding the Libyan Coastguard who is responsible for forcibly returning migrants to horrific conditions in Libyan detention centers where they are subjected to forced labor and torture.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations have all documented major human rights violations and clear cases of modern slavery in these facilities.
Efforts to stop African and Arab migrants entering Europe are driven by the European Union’s inhumane immigration policy, which works closely with Libyan authorities to prevent migrants entering Europe and sends them back to Libya.
These efforts have left migrants with no other option than to try and migrate clandestinely, therefore increasing their risk to human trafficking and abuse.
This has led to calls from the IOM for an “urgent and measurable shift in approach” to the situation in the Mediterranean, including no longer sending migrants back to Libya as it is too unsafe.
A 2019 AP investigation found militias in Libya torture, abuse, and detain migrants in detention centers that have received millions in European funding.
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