Amnesty International Livewire
During Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi’s rule, they were at risk of arrest, indefinite detention, torture or other ill-treatment and exploitation.
Far from changing their fate, last year’s “17 February Revolution” left Sub-Saharan Africans vulnerable to similar abuses. In fact, their situation is arguably even more precarious now in light of the prevailing security vacuum, the widespread availability of weapons, and the proliferation of armed militias acting with impunity and outside the framework of the law. Foreign nationals are now at the mercy of whichever militia hold them and have no access to justice and redress for abuses.
David (not his real name), a 42-year-old Nigerian man, told Amnesty International how one night in August 2011 a group of armed men in military dress entered his home without a warrant and beat him with sticks and gun-butts. He was then shot in the leg.
He was beaten again in detention. He recalled how one night in December 2011, he was dragged out of his cell by a group of guards, handcuffed, suspended from a metal gate and beaten with a water pipe.
David is still languishing in jail with no contact with his family. “I have lived and worked in many countries, but Libya now is the worst,” he said. “Here, you don’t know who is police, who are armed gangs, and there is no-one to help you.”
In another detention centre, a Chadian national showed the scars on his back, which he said were from beatings with wooden sticks and metal rods in March 2012. He explained that he was punished for trying to escape. His cellmates also complained that the guards occasionally beat them for “mistakes” such as requesting medical treatment, complaining about lack of hygiene or inquiring about their fate.
A group of detainees recounted how a Nigerian man was beaten to death in the centre in early May 2012.
Even though the violence and abuses faced by foreign nationals in Libya have been well documented, people are still driven there out of desperation and a desire to escape persecution or poverty.
In southern Libya, local officials and residents said that new arrivals enter the country’s porous and largely uncontrolled southern borders every day. They mainly use two routes: through Sabha for those coming from western Africa, or through Kufra for those arriving from Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan.
Migrants have spoken to Amnesty International of their long and dangerous journeys.
Some said that they had been abandoned in the middle of the desert by smugglers. Left without a compass and kilometres away from the nearest city, they were forced to finish their trip on foot, under the scorching sun.