giovedì 25 aprile 2013

Libya refugee slaves to reclaim the desert mines

Emilio Drudi

"It was a massacre. It almost seems like that should happen to cause a massacre 'who counts' to intervene. Not enough and the injured victims who, unfortunately, already there have been ". Don Mussie Zerai, the president of the agency Habeshia barely holds the indignation when he denounced the new emergency exploded in Libya, in the region of Sirte, the indifference of European registries and, more generally, of the international community. They are terrible news that come from the detention camp for refugees and migrants organized on the outskirts of Sirte, the town of Gaddafi, on the edge of the desert. Prisoners are forced to "reclaim" the great plain steppe by landmines and other unexploded ordnance left over from the war around the urban area. A bare hands and without any preparation. Improvising the best and relying on luck alone. Those who refuse are beaten.
"I did not hardly believe the first phone calls I signaled this horror - says Father Zerai - But I had to convince myself that what they told those desperate is all true. Some of them managed to hide a cell phone at the time of the arrest. It 'the only way they have to communicate with the outside. To escape the surveillance phone calls at night or shutting down the toilet. Or while his companions try to distract the guards on some pretext. Stories they come out to shake. "
In the field - one of the many calls that hypocrisy European centers and who are actually authentic lager - are housed between 150 and 200 refugees, men and women. Sixty are Eritreans. Then Somalis, Ethiopians, Sudanese, and Malian refugees from other sub-Saharan countries. The management and housing are in practice in the hands of fundamentalist Islamic militants, although formally depend on the government authorities. And it's militiamen, in fact, the initiative to use the refugees as minesweepers. In this area, the war has been fierce. The front has stopped a long time between the coast and the desert, with the revolutionaries who, coming from the east, tried to focus on Tripoli and Gaddafi's troops mobilized to repel them. Sirte was a key city, almost halfway between Benghazi, the rebel capital and Tripoli, the capital regime's policy. It is also a symbol of the city, because here he was born and had formed Gaddafi, the Libyan leader had here thousands of loyalists. The fighting very hard to control that there were still kill with mines and unexploded shells scattered everywhere in the urban periphery, and especially in the fields and in the desert all around. So the militia - tell the desperate phone calls come to don Zerai - have decided to use their prisoners as cannon fodder to "clean up" the ground: they should be, these are not people deprived of their right to seek, find and remove bombs. As slaves sent to the slaughterhouse.

"Every morning - specifies don Zerai, referring to the desperate cry for help of those young people forgotten by everyone - the guards choose a group of prisoners. A few dozen. Generally only men. Framing them and lead them in the minefields. It 's impossible to refuse. Those who oppose is whipped with thick slices of electric cables. The massacre continues until the victim gives or falls to the ground unconscious, with the flesh torn by the blows. In that desert's hidden around in the sand: landmines, anti-tank mines, projectiles ready to explode bombs trap. The refugees are forced to look for the bombs with their bare hands, without any experience. The soldiers guarding them at a distance, with weapons drawn and whips in hand. There is no alternative for prisoners: a shot or take a fatal clubbing or groped his luck at the mines. It goes on for hours. And someone has already forfeited his life. I was told of at least six young men jumped in the air: two died, others were injured but do not receive adequate care. Someone was taken to hospital, but less serious crimes had to return to the field. Every morning we start again. Maybe not always choosing the same, but start again. So it is a constant nightmare. As soon as he wakes up, every prisoner knows that if he is selected for the team of deminers slaves, must choose whether to risk of being blown up or end up beaten. Someone told me, committed suicide in despair. On the other hand too many people now who have lost all hope. Those kids have run away from dictatorships and persecution, hoping to gain freedom and dignity. Gone, however, in terrible concentration camps. And the only future they see day to day is a long, endless black tunnel of oppression and suffering. Not only in Sirte, where you are consuming this atrocity. All Libyan detention centers are hell, even if the use of slaves to be used as minesweepers improvised so far has been reported only there, in the desert of Sirte. "
Just these fields have been at the center of the massive, well documented dossier of abuses of power delivered by Don Zerai, on behalf of the agency Habeshia, commissions for European Affairs and Human Rights. There was a special hearing in Brussels, with the commitment by the leadership of the European Union, to establish committees to be sent to North Africa and to put pressure on national governments of the EU - starting with Italy - to withdraw from the bilateral agreements that have entrusted the task of Libya "gendarme of the Mediterranean" to stem the emigration to the Italian coast, French, Spanish, Greek.

"Since then, it was October of 2012 - complaint don Zerai - has not moved anything. Meanwhile, the situation continues to worsen. In all 22 Libyan detention centers and, in particular, precisely in those indicated in the dossier as the hardest and inhumane. The field of Sheba, for example, an open structure in the desert, in the center of the country, it is so crowded that in cells of 40-50 square meters are a hundred or so prisoners. Less than one square meter per head, almost no services, and very little water, little food and often inedible. 'We are forced to sleep in shifts because there is not enough room for everyone to lie together,' he called me crying a few nights ago a guy Eritrea. And another: 'Our day is always the same: beatings, humiliation and whipping without any reason. Just a pretext to unleash violence. Maybe look. Or a complaint to the moldy bread or water to drink that is also missing '. Also just to call it takes courage. It 'very dangerous. Anyone caught with a cell undergoes a tremendous beating. The last one has contacted me knew of risking a lot, but to call for help has been now the only little light that keeps alive those poor people. He said that it was able to call with the help of other inmates, someone has distracted the attention of the militia guard, and others, pretending to converse with each other, they did circle standing around him who, squatting on the ground with their cell phone hidden in the palm of your hand, put himself in communication with me for a few minutes. He told me that the beatings were so violent that someone is no longer able to stand up for days. Aside from friends, no one cares. Just as no one takes care of the sick. Every so often there comes a doctor, but most of the times not even enter in the cells is limited to a few words with the prisoner should assist through the half-open door or window of the cell and then maybe prescribe some anti pain reliever. Nothing more. What happens to Sheba is repeated, as I say, in other detention centers, such as those of Twaisha and Sibrata in the suburbs of Tripoli, Benghazi, Gianfuda, Homs, Mishrata, Kufra ... It 's terrible. It would be terrible even if they were founded just over a tenth of the complaints that I receive. But the European Union continues to ignore all this. "

Yet commissions were sent to Libya. It operates in Tripoli, the UN refugee organization.

"It 's true - insists don Zerai - Tripoli is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, but I am not aware that its officials can move freely to make inspections true in detention centers, without prior permission and without the intervention of representatives of the Libyan government. The same goes for the delegates sent from Brussels which, moreover, do not come to Libya to investigate across the board, but only to check that the contributions bestowed in Tripoli are engaged in the best manner possible. So the government has easy game: port commissioners to visit certain realities kept fairly well, maybe arranged specially in view of the inspection, and then everything goes on as before. That's why after the hearing in Brussels nothing has changed. There was, indeed, an escalation of violence, to the case of the slaves deminers of Sirte. It was also informed the Commissioner of the UN. Did I reported myself. Now I hope this at least encourage them to do something that goes far beyond the routine checks. "

Given the inertia followed hearing in Brussels dedicated specifically to the Libyan detention centers, you have to wonder at this point what you can do.

Don Zerai: "I see only two roads. The first is that the European Union should set up a committee of inquiry and real control with sweeping powers, demanding the Libyan government that its members have full freedom of movement throughout the country, and access to any detention center and at each prison where there are refugees and migrants among the prisoners. In short, inspections true, with the threat, if not, to cut off all funding and the contributions that continue to be allocated to the so-called camps and assistance to foreigners in the country. Better yet, to revoke all treaties of cooperation. Including economic ones. And here, the second point, comes into play politics of the agreements with Tripoli by the EU and by several national governments. Europe has delegated to the Libyan police control of migration in the Mediterranean. He shifted in fact its borders on the south, beyond the Strait of Sicily, and to guard it took Libya, providing it with the means weapons, instructors, ships. Everybody knows that Tripoli has not signed the international conventions for the respect of human rights and, in particular, to those of refugees and migrants. But, apparently, does not care. What matters, for Europe, is that the border remains shut. And do business. No matter how and at what price. I do not care if this closure causes deaths every day, ill-treatment, unlawful imprisonment, torture, enslavement. The important thing is that no one steps or at least less migrants as possible. I do not believe to be far from the truth to say that this is a crime against humanity. Europe and European governments, such as Italy, have signed bilateral treaties with Tripoli, can not be called out only because everything that happens on the other side of the Mediterranean. Are complicit, if not instigators of this tragedy. And they will remain as long as this policy on migration will not be revoked. "

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