venerdì 12 ottobre 2012

Libya: The hounding of Asylum Seekers & Refugees Must Stop.


Harassment, ill-treatment, torture, cruel suppression of all forms of protest. Kills even when cold. Girls and young women raped, beaten, humiliated before the eyes of their husbands or partners. Forced labour and systematic beatings for those who rebel. Insufficiency, or even lack of food and water as well as for drinking. Pregnant mothers need of care and control, left to themselves. Wounded and sick without any form of medical care. Do not escape this hell even children: 6, 8, 10, 12 years. But even very small: of one or two years or even a few months. And, for everyone, no prospect that the nightmare will end: at best, they expect a deportation across the border in the desert, or return to the governments of the countries from which these desperate people have fled, with eyes the dream of freedom and a dignified life.
And 'what is happening in Libya in prisons and detention centres where they are herded thousands of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. People who would never have been arrested and cross the door of a prison, "guilty" only to have sought refuge from persecution and famine. It happens in almost absolute silence of the international community. The indifference of Western governments. Indifference "hairy", which often hides a real complicity, because this hell created by the policy of many European countries on migration: the "armor" of the borders in the face to those who would be entitled to asylum, for example. Not to mention the indiscriminate expulsions at sea, a practice that never really ended despite the harsh sentence passed on February 22 by the European Court against Italy, in accordance with Article 3 of the Convention on Human Rights, to the degrading treatment and torture.

The era of Gaddafi

The roots of this tragedy back to the times of the dictatorship of Gaddafi. In particular, when I started the agreements with Gaddafi for control of tens of thousands of refugees arrived in Libya from the Horn of Africa and the sub-Saharan region, driven by wars, persecution, famine. And 'at that time - we are in 2009 - that is embodied in particular the agreement between Italy and Libya, which opened its doors to the decision to stop, by any means, attempts to embark migrants to Europe, challenging the fate at sea after paying a high price for a seat on boat wreck, "carts" good only for demolition. But instead of hitting the criminal traffickers who exploit the need and desperation of thousands of human beings, have begun raids and mass arrests of its refugees. And for those who still managed to get on one of those "carts", expulsions at sea. No matter: without bothering to identify the desperate intercepted in the Mediterranean and whether they were entitled to be accepted as refugees and political exiles. All men, women, pregnant girls, children of all ages. People, that is, that they should be helped and made to enter in Italy and in Europe on the basis of international conventions signed by the vast majority of Western governments and often also based on the constitutional rules of the states that those people were trying to achieve. It 's the case of Italy, for example, as stated in the third paragraph of article ten of the Republican Constitution.
The drama of the 63 Somali and Eritrean refugees that between the months of  March and April 2011 were abandoned by all for 15 days on a raft adrift in the Strait of Sicily and condemned to die of thirst and starvation, stems from this: from this policy choice is totally closed. The tragedy (which cost Italy a second international condemnation, this time by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg) has come to light because 9 of the 72 young people who were on board the boat were miraculously saved. But are dozens of similar tragedies that you consume no echo each month in the Mediterranean, as evidenced by the "death toll": about 1,500 per year, according to the latest findings of the Agency (UNHCR) and the Italian Centre for refugees.
It was expected this outlet, hundreds, thousands of deaths and mass arrests. It was predictable at the same time which is delegated to the problem emigration to a country, Libya, which has never signed the Geneva Convention of 1951 on the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. The direct consequence of this choice could not be the tragedy that is taking place for many years and continues to grow. A tragedy waiting to happen for the fate of thousands of desperate ended up in police raids in Libya. Because everyone knew and know what are the conditions of life - if life can be defined - those who have the misfortune to enter a prison or a detention centre in Libya. Of this fact is: prisons and detention centres. Lager and shelters as you attempt to have us believe.

Revolt against Gaddafi: the effects on refugees

The uprising against Gaddafi has aggravated the situation further. The refugees from the Horn of Africa or in sub-Saharan Africa, arrived in Libya as a step towards Europe or maybe just looking for a job, have been considered in mass by the rebels as military mercenaries in the pay of the Rais. Against them, even against women and children, has unleashed a relentless manhunt that led to arrests, beatings, summary executions, lynching’s. Only the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tripoli has assisted and protected 2,500. With the exodus of all immigrants and foreign workers from the country, when the revolt has become a civil war, even Eritreans, Ethiopians, Somalis, Sudanese, Malians tried to escape. Many arrived in Tunisia, luckily passing the border. Others have tempted fate by sea, focusing on Lampedusa and Sicily. And many died during the crossing.
The "hunt black" is not ended even after the fall of Gaddafi and the victory of the revolution. Indeed, in Tripoli, Benghazi and other major cities, it is often intensified and continues even today. As reported by some news reports, as well as indiscriminate accusation against all the "blacks" in Libya to be non-immigrant workers but former mercenaries of Gaddafi in disguise, this persecution by the revolutionary militias would be fuelled by racist motives and Xenophobia: Arabs against Africans, Islamic fundamentalists against Christians.

The situation today

Today, after the stabilization of the political situation, the elections and the new government, hell continues. The new Libya, which has rebelled against the dictatorship of Gaddafi and was aided in the revolt by the grand coalition military NATO, led by France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, in the name of democracy and human rights, it does not appear that much different from the previous one, swept away by the revolution.
New international treaties. Last February was renewed the treaty of friendship and cooperation between Italy and Libya. This is a general agreement, which essentially corresponds to the one signed in 2009 by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Colonel Gaddafi. For the management of specific problems at the time of signature has been established to study and get special bilateral agreements. To control the migration agreement was signed by Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri and the Libyan Fawzi Al Taher Abdulali April 3 last year.
In many quarters, already on the eve of the renewal of the General Treaty, in February, Italy authoritative voices were raised to ask the Prime Minister Mario Monti not to sign without expecting first revolutionary government, as an indispensable condition, the guarantee of respect for human rights and acceptance of the Geneva Convention of 1951, with the possibility of checks and constant, even in detention centres, by international commissions UN and European humanitarian organizations. Particularly lively and determined the position taken by Angelo Del Boca, the Italian historian most experienced of African issues and, in particular, the former Italian colonies. All appeals have fallen on deaf ears, however: Monti signed without guarantees. The same happened on the occasion of the signing of emigration, two months later. In fact, the exact content of the April remained in practice "secret": the Italian Parliament has discussed this and it was possible to know the essential terms only after a strong campaign by Amnesty International and thanks to the tenacity of some journalists . They found that the control of migration to Italy has basically confirmed lines of the earlier cartel, that strongly supported by the then Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, a member of the Northern League, strongly condemned by the European Court of human rights.
Scarce or absent reactions of "politics" after these revelations, both in Italy and in Libya. However, Amnesty International has launched a campaign in national and European level to ask the government the unilateral withdrawal of the Monti-Chancellors Abdulali, collecting thousands of signatures.
Rejections at sea. Have not stopped the indiscriminate expulsions at sea. The last known incident dates back to June 29. An old fishing boat was intercepted in international waters while attempting to reach Sicily. On board were 76, almost all young and Eritrean asylum seekers, women and children. Military ships have conducted all on an oil rig in Libyan waters, where the whole group of migrants has been taken over by the border police, led to the port of Tripoli and transferred to the detention centre Sibrata Mentega Delilah. According to the refugees, the operation was conducted jointly by Libyan and Italian naval units: they say they know this because the Libyan and Italian flags were waving at the stern of the ship to the transaction.
Prisons. In prisons migrants, refugees and asylum seekers continue to die. It does not stop the "search black" that continues to fill: systematic arrests in the south of the country of young people who have just crossed the border, raids in major cities and on the coast, rounding up by departments of fundamentalist militants, who have never laid down their arms after the fall and death of Gaddafi. More than twenty detention centres currently in operation, ranging from old prisons of the regime, to areas of organized surveillance at military camps and barracks, to structures that should be centres but they work in reality as prisons in all respects. Through complaints and testimonies of prisoners, refugees, aid workers, journalists, Habeshia the agency has developed a dossier that, even in part, provides data and information on the general reality very eloquent.
The report covers three of the twenty detention centres in Libya: Benghazi, Homs and Twaisha (Tripoli). Very important, also, the news put together based on various complaints received in the days or a few months ago on Sibrata Mentega Delila, Kufra, Gianfuda, Mishrata, Zawya and Sharimetar.

Benghazi. About four hundred prisoners. This center, located in Medina Riyada, near the stadium, is managed by the theoretically "Red Crescent", but in fact command the armed militia of the revolution, claiming jihaidisti: come when they want and have the prisoners to their liking. "Humanitarian workers that are sometimes - said one of the detainees - can not do anything about registering our names, and we count it. Then everything is in the hands of the guards. " Almost all places of detention are made from old container, where prisoners are crammed for almost the whole day, under a blazing sun, without being able to get out. The food, very little more than a few times does not. Completely lacking medical services, including minimum: a young, injured in January in Kufra, in the last three months has not received any cure although it has developed a serious infection, there are pregnant women left to themselves and two children were born in a container, without any assistance.
Several women were raped: overcoming the resistance to the torturers have hit several times with a stun gun, a system of punishment increasingly popular with prisoners. At least 140 men were taken away to work as slaves or in the service of the military (often used to load and unload ammunition) or at farms and businesses to people close to Islamic fundamentalist groups. The last "withdrawal" was forced to October 2: 15 detainees were taken to their cells and escorted off the field. It is not known what happened to. Even the younger kids under age, do not escape the beatings and torture. According to witnesses, on the contrary, the militia would have invented a 'game' terrible right on the skin of these kids, a sort of shooting with human targets. Would avoid hit but even so, if true, is a form of torture awful. For pure sadistic fun. How did the SS concentration camps with Jewish children.
The latest news also speak of discrimination and religious persecution. The militia force everyone to pray according to the Islamic faith. During the period of Ramadan have forced the Christians to observe fasting as Muslims. Those who refused were beaten up. Islamic law applies to all: any Christian symbols or effigies of saints, etc.. are prohibited, women have been torn the crosses' necks, who has a tattoo traced to the Christianity he must keep hidden or is severely beaten. Women must cover up and wear a veil. Many families were divided because, not having with him documents proving the marriage, the principle that men and women can not be together: it may happen so that husband and wife end up in a different prison, no longer have news of each other . Men who try to defend their women are inflicted terrible tortures. One of the most frequent is the fake drowning: the victim is dipped his head under water almost to choke her and pulled out at the last minute. For several times. The lashes as punishment is daily practice. And one of the "entertainment" favorite of the guards, after this torture, is to roll the victims in the mud, as a sign of extreme humiliation.
Last contact date 07.10.12 at 15.00pm, update me about the critical situation, the refugees for three days who do not receive food, the situation is getting worse, it seems that some UNHCR staff members who went to the detention centre have said "UNHCR, recognize as refugees or asylum seekers, and what we are doing for you just an act of humanity, in the next three days you must leave this place, we give you a cash contribution." but the military has threatened to refugees saying that no one try to the ski field, otherwise you will be killed. In between these two positions the refugee life is seriously endangered. More than someone trying to escape to avoid these harassment. There can hardly anyone. Almost all those who are caught trying to leave this hell and being caught in the following days, were killed: no one asks the guards and the police account of these murders.

Homs. About 570 prisoners, including 200 Eritreans (one hundred men and 30 women) and the other from Somalia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mali, Sudan. The latest women, 28 in all, of various nationalities, were recorded on October 3, after being locked in the days before in several places: the same night as they were beaten badly simply because they had asked for a bit 'of water to drink. Then, during the night, the guards have harassed a boy, one of the militiamen he woke up at two, bringing them out from the dormitory where he was sleeping. Just enough time to cross the threshold and jumped on him all at once, shouting that he was trying to escape and pounding in blood did not stop even when he lost consciousness. An unprovoked massacre, by pure, sadistic "fun".
Here they are numerous reports that the Libyan soldiers are forcing the prisoners to be registered refugees in the embassies of their countries of origin. It 's the prelude to expulsion: the return to the State vessava them to the point of forcing them to flee. Opponents are "convinced" by dint of violence and torture. This is clearly a procedure in contrast to any international law. Is openly violated, in particular, the African Union Convention that protects the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. Women who are ill or pregnant, in need of medical checks, denied any kind of assistance. Any hint of protest is punished. Even in death, as happened in four young: three Eritreans and a Somali. Do not miss the gratuitous violence: an Eritrean boy was struck cold with a knife by the military while he was sleeping, perhaps for "punishment" or as a warning to others. This series of abuses against women staged a hunger strike. The protest was repressed wildly. The military in particular if they are taken with a guy, as a scapegoat first barrel was beaten and then shot him without any reason. Seeing that horrible scene, many women, terrified, began to scream. The military, to reduce them to silence, they beat them and fired several shots fired.
Multiply discrimination on religious grounds and those who claim that all prisoners, even if the majority of the Coptic religion, observe the precepts of Islam.
Twaisha: It 'a prison for common criminals on the outskirts of Tripoli, where for years it also works a large section reserved for foreigners without documents. And 'one of the most crowded detention centres: the refugees are currently more than 600 prisoners. You are locked up, to be precise, 550 men (500 Somalis and Eritreans fifty) and sixty women: 50 Somali and Eritrean ten. Three of the young Eritrean are pregnant: one is the eighth month. Everyone, including pregnant women, suffer from lack of food and water. Many have been there for over six months, subject to constant abuse. Who tried to escape and was taken, suffered heavy beatings by the military guard: one lost an eye to the beatings, others complain permanent physical disability. Punishment and torture with electric shocks are on the agenda. Particularly against the Eritreans, many of which are imposed by force to declare their true nationality but to be migrants from one of the countries in West Africa. Unknown why this request.
Sibrata Mentega Delilah: It 'a big detention centre recently completed on the outskirts of Tripoli. Prisoners are more than 350, including 76 refugees intercepted in international waters in the Strait of Sicily, June 29, brought to power on an oil rig in Libyan territorial waters and then delivered to the border police. About 50 of the 350 detainees are women. With them, even some small children, two of which, one is only 18 months and is in urgent need of medical care.
Abuse and violence are the norm everyday. On July 21, a 18 year old girl was shot at by police during a protest. Wounded in the abdomen, was hospitalized in very serious condition. The officers were presented as an ex-mercenary Gaddafi, the protagonist of a riot. It is actually an Eritrean refugee who, along with other young prisoners, hungry and desperate as he asked only to drink and eat. And a more humane: it was two days ago that they did not receive food or water. Another prisoner, a nineteen year old, was beaten with an iron bar in his head: the companions reported that the blows caused a massive bleeding from an ear.
Heavy abuse also suffered a number of women, one in an advanced state of pregnancy: frightened by the gunfire and blood began to cry and thrash about and the military, to reduce them to silence, hurled at them all, including some sturdy chairs metal.
All 350 prisoners are asylum seekers. There is no valid reason, therefore, to keep them in prison. For more in a state of daily harassment and violence. But even for them, as in other prisons, are made heavy pressure to agree to be registered with the embassies of the countries of origin, as a prelude to expulsion and repatriation. Not taken into account that for many, especially the Eritrean, the forced return to their homeland is equivalent to a sentence of many years in prison or even the death penalty, because in Eritrea illegal expatriation is a crime equivalent to desertion, especially for those of military age. Age that lasts up to 50 years and passes.
More frequent even persecution of religious character. Almost none of those 350 refugees are Muslim but, as reported more than anyone, during Ramadan were forced to fast and often at sunset, finished hours of abstinence, water and food were distributed only to Muslims. Still must comply with the practices of Islam and are under pressure to convert.
Kufra: It 'a detention centre located in the extreme south, the city was established around the oasis in the Sahara desert, the first one you meet coming from the southern border and reference point for the police to all migrants and refugees who have crossed surprised after the border. Set within a large military base with a major weapons depot, according to the latest news, there are herded hundreds of young men and women, kept in conditions almost of slavery, forced labour under the threat of gun, often without food or water, at the mercy of the soldiers who guard the camp. In the days of the civil war are often found at the centre of fierce fighting between the two sides, forced by militants to carry out work for them even under the bombs and the fire of musketry.
Among the witnesses to this situation there are a dozen boys, all Eritreans, who managed to get in touch by telephone with the agency Habeshia to Rome to ask for help. Their story is emblematic of the fate of thousands of other refugees. Fled from Eritrea, defying the prison and the firing of border guards, after being repaired in Ethiopia and Sudan, have managed to reach Libya with an adventurous journey in the Sahara. Shortly after crossing the border of the Fezzan, they were intercepted by a patrol of militiamen near Mesrué, not far away from Kufra. Bring all under arrest in command of the area, 16 were transferred to the detention centre in Kufra. Of the other four - three women and a teenager - were to Mesrué, there was no longer news. In Kufra the 16 Eritrean refugees have found other prisoners taken recently, thirty, all Somalis, also caught in the Libyan desert, just this side of the border. All were forced to work for the soldiers of the base. And many have been blackmailed, some soldiers asked them a bounty of $ 800 to take them to a safer place. An application that makes you think of a real traffic based on fear, as in the days of Gaddafi. Who can pay does not hesitate to give in to extortion. The others are at the mercy of captors.
Gianfuda: About 600 inmates are more than 100 Eritreans, Ethiopians 80, 150 Somalis, the other from Sudan and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe. Food and water are distributed only every 4 or 5 days. Somalis, Eritreans and Ethiopians are openly discriminated against on religious grounds. For their rations are becoming increasingly scarce than others, do not get soap and detergents for personal hygiene, are punished and beaten continuously without a real reason: just some excuse or simply "whim" of the captors. In early October, four boys Eritreans were massacred beatings, kicks and punches, with the false accusation that he had tried to escape. The next day, the same treatment was reserved for three Somalis.
Mishrata. About 250 prisoners, almost all migrants from West Africa. The Eritreans are only 5, but two of them were seriously injured by the constant beatings suffered by the guards ever since I arrived, to between 15 and 20 September: one has a head injury, the other a broken arm. They never received any medical care. On the contrary, continue to be subject to mistreatment and abuse.
Zawya. The prisoners are nearly 500, of which 65 Eritrean and 23 Somalis. Upon entering the centre, the guards took each of them all the money he had. Formally it would be a seizure, it is actually a real theft, followed by continuous bullying, especially against those who try to protest. The general living conditions are similar to those of the other fields: little food, little water and often denied as a punishment or a free will, overcrowding in housing, no medical care. A young man has a broken foot, but received no treatment of any kind.
Sharimetar: Located in the suburbs of Tripoli, this detention centre is home to about a hundred of migrants and refugees: 35 Somalis and 10 Eritreans are the victims "favourite" of daily abuse by the military guard. The food ration is limited to a loaf of bread and a bit 'of water every 48 hours. Nothing more. Beatings and punishments, however, come every day, especially for those who dare to mention just a protest. For the sick and injured is not any form of medical care.

Other witnesses.

The confirmation of these complaints and how it stifled and ignored the hell that we live in prisons and detention centres in Libya is also a series of testimonies, gathered by telephone and announced by the Integra Foundation / Action, have been published by the newspaper La Repubblica last July. How to Debesay, a young Eritrean arrested in Benghazi and, along with other young people, was looking for a ferry to Italy, where he fled his mother. "Here in prison - he said - we are desperate, frustrated. We tried to go all the way, but we did not succeed, not even paying the guards. Escape is not possible: if you try to escape you get punished, beaten on the soles of the feet, excruciating pain. In a cell of 30 square meters are huddled in more than 60, we sleep on the ground, there are branded but only dirty mattresses or mats on the floor. The options, most of the times, is only dry bread and water. If you're sick, there are doctors and medicine: your fate is abandonment and death. "
Equally dramatic testimony of Mogos, a seventeen originally from Asmara, escaped from a training camp Eritrean army and ended up in prison Gianfuda. "We travelled for 12 days in the desert. There were 50, piled on a truck. Near the sea, to Tripoli, when it seemed done, the Libyan soldiers took me along to the guys who were with me. The hardest thing is not to see the future, a way out of this endless journey. The few that do come out of prison to work "Some detainees - said in fact the Integra Foundation / Action - are bought by wealthy Libyans as a labor force for their own businesses or farms, but this" luck "is reserved for those who have the passport, immediately seized when the engagement is to avoid any temptation to escape. "We do not have Eritrean passports - added Mogos - and so we can not even go out to work as slaves. For us there is no solution. No future. At age 17, I'm stuck here in hell. " Anwar is an Ethiopian Oromo, the southern region of the country where there is a strong opposition to the central government in Addis Ababa: "I was taken out of prison Gianfuda for nearly a month, bought me a Libyan who needed labour. Then, paying, I was able to continue their journey to the sea ... I was the first prisoner to Kufra and then Gianfuda. E 'was terrible beating us regularly and on time every night, we had no food, no medicine or doctors. In Libya there are no rights. "
Similar stories have been told by many others. As Aroon and Meron, Eritreans, or Salua, Somalia. Desperate cries from hell. But no one seems to want to listen. Just as is the case for over two years for the parallel tragedy of refugees in the Sinai slaves, hundreds, thousands of young Eritreans, Somalis, Ethiopians, captured by marauding Bedouins while trying to cross the border with Israel and kept chained in prisons improvised container buried in the desert, until he is paid a ransom of 30-35 thousand dollars. With the constant threat of being killed, because who is not able to pay for freedom is sacrificed for organ trafficking that feeds the market for illegal transplants. A real, serious, unspoken international humanitarian emergency. The "case Libya" could become a disaster as devastating.
 Fr. Mussie Zerai 
                                                     Fribourg, 12 October 2012

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