The Current

Oxfam report reveals migrants in Libya suffer harrowing abuse and exploitation

A new Oxfam report finds Libyans are exploiting African migrants for profit and abusing them while in detainment.
The daily reality of African migrants stuck in Libya is horrendous, according to a recent Oxfam report that reveals harrowing human rights violations. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

Read Story Transcript

Over the past few years, the stories of tens of thousands of migrants, crowded on dangerous vessels to cross the perilous Mediterranean sea for a better life, have become familiar.

So are the tragedies they too often face at sea.

But what's missing in this narrative, according to a recent report from Oxfam International, is the suffering of migrants in Libya who say they've been subject to kidnapping, torture, rape and forced slave labour.

This report includes interviews with 258 migrants, chronicling their experiences in the North African country.

"If I knew Libya was terrible, I wouldn't have put myself in danger," says a 23-year-old Gambian who made it to Sicily last year on a boat. He says he was beaten every day while he was held in detention in Libya.

Oxfam Italy's Campaign Director Elisa Bacciotti says the abuse is at the hands of human traffickers.
Women migrants are at an extremely high risk of physical and sexual violence, according to an Oxfam report interviewing 258 migrants detained in Libya. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

"The vast majority of them shows us a consistent picture of slavery, murder, abuse and hard suffering that they have gone through [at] the detention center that are in Libya," Bacciotti tells The Current's Megan Williams. 

"In our report, there are also evidences of what's happening to women … in particular, all but one women that we spoke to had reported they have been suffering of sexual abuse during their journey in Libya."

The Oxfam report lists the following statistics on the condition and treatment migrants endured:

• 74 per cent said they had witnessed the murder and/or torture of a travelling companion.

• 84 per cent said they had suffered inhuman or degrading treatment, extreme violence or torture.

• 70 per cent said they had been tied up.

• 80 per cent said they had been denied food and water during their stay.

• 60 per cent had been deprived of medical care.

Almost 100,000 people have crossed from Libya to Italy this year and some 2,500 people have have drowned.

Bacciotti suggests what needs to be done to save lives at sea and protect lives in Libya is to continue sustainable search and rescue operations. She said Europe must also remain active in their work for as long as needed.

"There is also a need to tackle what we call the root causes of migration," she explains.

"The situation of instability and insecurity in Libya but also in other African counties where these people come from ... forced them to leave and to choose the most dangerous option — to come to Europe."

Listen to the full segment near the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry and Ramraajh Sharvendiran.