Monday, December 09, 2013

The Migrant's Dream

Libya continues to be a gateway for thousands of undocumented African migrants who are willing to risk its violent militias, harsh detention centres and often fatal rides on overloaded, rickety boats to set sail for Lampedusa – for them the closest point in Europe. Even Asians have been found to use Libya as a transit point.

As they dream desperately of greener pastures, the migrants do odd jobs to earn enough to pay for the boat ride. Work is scarce and the competition severe due to the growing number of migrants gathering. The charge for a seat on one of the many boats leaving the Libyan coast is around 1,000 dollars. Even if an exhausting day of work is fully paid for, it could take years to save a sum like that.

 A human trafficker admitted to IPS of to earning around 20,000 euros from each successful trip to Lampedusa.

 Local fishermen know only too well the risk of getting into a packed, fragile, raft-like boat. As Abdala Gheryani, who works at the tiny fishing port of Gargaresh, says, “Every now and then I find corpses trapped in my nets.”

 A detainee at the Libyan detention centre, explains “We were around 50 in the same cell, but at least the guards never hit me. For the black guys, though, it was completely different. They would be tortured and beaten in the most brutal way and on a daily basis.”
Women, he adds, were asked for sex in exchange for their release.

His testimony is corroborated by an Amnesty International (AI) report released last June, where the human rights NGO called on the Libyan government to end indefinite detention of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, including children, who had ended up there solely for immigration purposes. After visiting seven “holding centres”, AI also documented several cases where detainees, including women, were reportedly “subjected to brutal beatings with water pipes and electric cables.”

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