Italy and other EU member states should not prevent migrants from Libya where they are suffering horrific abuse in a “living hell” says the charity Oxfam.
More than 180,000 migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, arrived in Italy in 2016 and the figure has already passed 95,000 this year
Oxfam’s director in Italy, Robert Barbieri, said: “People must come first. The EU should provide safe routes for people to come to Europe and have access to fair and transparent processes for claiming asylum”.
Oxfam and Italian partners MEDU and Borderline Sicilia have just produced a report based on interviews with 158 migrants who succeeded in crossing the Mediterranean to Sicily.
Barbieri said its finding were a damning indictment of Europe’s efforts to keep people from escaping violence, slavery and even death in Libya.
The report said that rape, torture, imprisonment and slave labour are now commonplace for migrants in Libya. Conditions in which thousands of migrants found themselves were a “living hell”. There was a claim by one man that he had been imprisoned in a cell with dead bodies.
Many of those questioned claimed to have seen the torture and murder of a fellow migrant or been tortured themselves. Of the 31 women interviewed, all but one said they had suffered from sexual violence.
Eighty percent said they were regularly denied food and water and 70 percent said they had been tied up at one point or another.
“These testimonies paint a horrifying picture of desperate people who have risked their lives to escape war, persecution and poverty only to be confronted with unimaginable cruelty in Libya,” said Oxfam’s UK deputy CEO Penny Lawrence.
The report comes some seven months after Italy signed a deal with the Presidency Council to curb migration. The agreement, set out at the Malta summit in February, included a policy to return migrants to Libya for subsequent repatriation to their home countries. The pact was heavily criticised by international NGOs.