Libyan armed gangs stop, torture refugees for money

This 2015 video is about refugees from war-torn Somalia being tortured in Libya.

From Reuters news agency:

August 21, 2017

Exclusive: Armed group stopping migrant boats leaving Libya

An armed group is stopping migrant boats from setting off across the Mediterranean from a city west of Tripoli that has been a springboard for people smugglers, causing a sudden drop in departures over the past month, sources in the area said.

The revelation throws new light on the sharp reduction in migrant arrivals from Italy, which took over from the Aegean route as the main focus of European concerns in the crisis.

Arrivals in Italy from North Africa, the main route for migration to Europe this year, dropped by more than 50 percent in July from a year earlier, and August arrivals so far are down even further. July and August are peak months for migrant boats because of favorable sea conditions.

Sources in Sabratha, 70 km (45 miles) west of the capital, said the sudden drop had been caused by a new force in the seaside city, which is preventing migrants from leaving, often by locking them up. …

The group is made up of several hundred “civilians, policemen, army figures,” he said. It is conducting a “very strong campaign” that was launched by a “former mafia boss”, said a second Sabratha source …

The two Sabratha sources said the group was running a detention center for migrants who are turned back …

One of the sources said he thought the group was seeking legitimacy and financial support from Tripoli, where European states have tried to partner with a U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) to stem migrant flows. …

Italy wants to replicate a deal with Libya that the EU struck with Turkey last year, largely shutting down the migrant route through Greece and the Balkans. …

But any progress in Libya is likely to be fragile, with the country in a state of conflict since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted six years ago. Rival governments are vying for power and local militias battle each other for territory

The European Union’s border control agency Frontex last week said “clashes in Sabratha” contributed to July’s decline, also citing changeable weather and increased Libyan coastguard presence. The Sabratha sources were not aware of any clashes. …

The GNA has little control over armed groups in western Libya, including the capital, and none over factions that control the east of the country.

The civil society member from Sabratha said the new group there might stop working if it does not receive support from Tripoli. …

A senior diplomat compared the situation [in Libya] to a broken vase.

“In one corner we stuck it together, but everything else is in pieces.”

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

The situation in these prisons [of Libyan armed gangs for refugees] is serious. People are beaten, raped and abused. Via Facebook videos, relatives are asked to send ransom to stop the torture.

Libya has hardly any central authority. The country has three governments and different groups, including ISIS, fighting for power. …

According to Reuters, the militia members are not stopping refugees for nothing, hoping for financial support from Tripoli and Europe. Middle East Eye research website claims that this support has already been granted by the Italian government.

A journalist from the website has heard in the streets in Al Zawiyah that 5 million euros are being paid to stop migrants from traveling to Italy for at least one month.

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