In a report released on Tuesday, the London-based NGO says Europe has actively and knowingly supported the system of abuse set up by the Libyan authorities to prevent migrants from crossing the Mediterranean.
“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these abuses,” says Amnesty International’s Europe Director John Dalhuisen.
He added that the migrants are trapped at the mercy of Libyan authorities, militias, armed groups and smugglers who often work together for financial gain while refugees are subjected to systematic abuse.
The report follows a worldwide outrage over a video aired by CNN showing migrants being sold in Libya.
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What am I bid, what am I bid?" CNN filmed undercover footage of a slave auction in Libya, where smugglers sold migrants for as little as $400 each pic.twitter.com/uLoj2yrywE
— Mohamed. Jamal (@tajaliyat) November 15, 2017
Demonstrations were held in some African countries, Europe and the United States to elicit a swift action by world leaders.
The African Union said weeks later that a joint task force with the help of the United Nations and the European Union “plans to repatriate within the next 6 weeks, 20,000 migrants in identified government-controlled detention centres, who wish to leave Libya.”
The Libyan government said it will investigate the migrant slave auctions after pressure to find the perpetrators – believed to include government officials.
The footage showed about 10 men being sold for $400 as farm labourers in a night auction in the country where smugglers are reported to have robbed, kidnapped, abused and killed migrants who are unable to pay for their freedom.
Amnesty International implicated Italy in its report for the abuse of migrants who are mainly from Nigeria.
The report accused them of providing technical support to the Libyan department that runs the detention centres, enabling the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept people at sea and striking deals with local authorities, tribal leaders and armed groups to stop the smuggling of people and increase border controls.
“It is clear that, during 2016 and 2017, the Libyan Coast Guard’s increased capacity, due to support from EU member states, has led to an increasing number of operations where migrants are taken back to Libya.
“So far in 2017, 19,452 people have been intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard, taken back to Libya and immediately transferred to detention centres where torture is rife,” the report said with accounts of victims who were starved, beaten and money extorted from their families.
The report cited a footage that showed a boat called the Ras Jadir donated by Italy in April 2017, being used by the Libyan Coast Guard during a deadly incident on November 6, 2017 resulting in the drowning of about 50 people.
This is what happens when your saviour becomes your captor. pic.twitter.com/fLuhIvy0RI
— AmnestyInternational (@amnesty) December 12, 2017
“Ignoring basic security protocols, the Ras Jadir approached a sinking inflatable vessel about 30 nautical miles off the coast of Libya. When it failed to deploy its rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) to help facilitate the rescue, migrants were forced to climb the high sides of the ship and many fell into the water.
“A nearby NGO vessel, Sea-Watch 3, deployed its own RHIBs to try and save people but footage shows those aboard the Ras Jadir throwing objects at these RHIBs to force them away. It also shows migrants aboard the Ras Jadir being whipped with a rope and others trying to jump into the water to try and reach the RHIBs,” it recounts the first time a boat provided by a European government has been used for one of such events.
John Dalhuisen called on European governments to “rethink their cooperation with Libya on migration and enable people to get to Europe through legal pathways, including by resettling tens of thousands of refugees.”
“European governments have shown where their true priorities lie: namely the closure of the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused … They must insist that the Libyan authorities end the policy and practice of arbitrary arrests and detention of refugees and migrants, immediately release all foreign nationals held in the detention centres, and allow the UNHCR to operate unhindered,” he insisted.
Amnesty International also called on the Libyan authorities to sign the Refugee Convention and adopt an asylum law.