Sexual violence, abuse and exploitation on smuggling routes

A soldier in the turbulent city of Bengahzi A soldier in the turbulent city of Bengahzi © Abdullah Doma/AFP/Getty Images

30 June 2016
Amnesty International interviewed migrants and refugees who faced abuse, violence and death on their journey to Europe.

Amnesty International has released a report based on interviews with more than 90 refugees and migrants arriving at reception centres in southern Italy that recount their journey filled with torture, rape, exploitation, starvation and death.

Migrants and refugees are making the dangerous journey to Libya, where they rely on smugglers and often fall into the hands of traffickers and risk their lives on the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe.

“From being abducted, incarcerated underground for months and sexually abused by members of armed groups, to being beaten, exploited or shot at by people smugglers, traffickers or criminal gangs – refugees and migrants have described in harrowing detail the horrors they were forced to endure in Libya,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Interim Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

Paolos, an Eritrean young man, travelled through Sudan and Chad before arriving in Libya in April 2016. He witnessed when the smugglers abandoned a disabled man in the desert as they crossed the Libyan border. Women lived in fear of sexual violence, having experienced it already on their journey, or knowing that they would fall victim to such abuse, prepared themselves by taking contraceptive pills prior to travelling to avoid getting pregnant.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that as many as 264,000 migrants and refugees are currently in Libya, and most of them come from Sub-Saharan Africa. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has a record of 37,500 registered refugees and asylum-seekers, half of which are Syrian.

“The Libyan authorities must take urgent steps to restore the rule of law and protect the rights of refugees and migrants. The internationally-backed Government of National Accord has made commitments to respect and uphold human rights – they have a duty to hold those responsible for these abhorrent crimes accountable,” said Mughrabi.

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