Migrants in Libyan Camps Forced to Trade Sex for Clean Water – Amnesty

Two Nigerian refugees cry and embrace in a detention centre for refugees in Surman, Libya, August 2016 Reuters
Two Nigerian refugees cry and embrace in a detention centre for refugees in Surman, Libya, August 2016 Reuters

Migrants held in Libyan detention camps are subjected to horrific sexual violence caused by guards, including having to barter sex for food, water, and toilet access, Amnesty International said in a report on Thursday.

The report, which examines migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean and who disembarked in Libya in 2020 and 2021, suggests that the conditions in Libya’s camps have deteriorated despite its recent placement under the control of the interior ministry.

A woman, who told Amnesty that guards inside the detention camps raped her in exchange for clean water, said the camp guards would say, “maybe you want fresh water and beds … let me have sex with you, so I can free you.”

Amnesty’s findings come from interviews with 53 refugees and migrants in Libya between 14 and 50 years old from countries like Nigeria, Somalia and Syria, most of whom had fled camps or had access to phones.

Amnesty International reported that some pregnant women inside the camps had been repeatedly raped by guards, while men claimed they were forced to wear only underwear in an attempt to humiliate them. Several others, including boys, reported being groped, prodded, and violated.

Various reports of beatings, torture and a lack of food and sanitation have been reported from the detention camps since 2017.

In June, the Libyan coast guard, funded by the European Union, returned some 15,000 people to Libya after intercepting them at sea, more than it had in all of 2020. Although data is unreliable, Amnesty says that by the end of June, some 6,100 people had been transferred to camps.

Libya’s warring factions have been on a truce since October, as part of a UN-backed peace plan following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. However, armed groups still control migrant camps, while others control roads.

A number of EU lawmakers have asked the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to stop funding the coast guards, saying Libya is not a “safe country” for migrants.

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