Malta: easy prey
17 April 2015

A UN human rights workshop at Tripoli University in 2011. Although Libya is taking steps to improve its human rights record, migrants and asylum seekers, especially of sub-Saharan African origin, still face widespread xenophobia.
The full report "Beyond imagination: asylum seekers testify to life in Libya" is available here.
We used to sleep in our shoes, so that if the soldiers came to kick in the door, we could all jump up and run.

Valletta, 17 April 2015 – The accounts given by the asylum seekers interviewed by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) were strikingly consistent in the details of their ordeal in Libya. The picture that emerged is one of foreigners who felt conspicuous and unsafe everywhere, even at home. They constantly feared that Libyan civilians might report them and that the armed forces or militias would arrest and imprison them for not having the right papers to be in the country. Bitter experience taught them not to trust anyone, be it their landlord, shopkeeper, taxi driver... They saw themselves – with solid justification – as totally deprived of their rights in Libya, and so constantly open to exploitation and abuse, without anyone to turn to for help or redress.

Their fears are borne out by evidence from human rights delegations visiting Libya. One mission found Eritrean and Somali communities living a "semi-clandestine existence in deplorable conditions" in poor neighbourhoods of Tripoli.

The severe marginalisation of migrants stems from long-standing racism against sub-Saharan Africans in Libyan society, fanned by rumours during and immediately after the 2011 conflict that Gaddafi 's forces had used African mercenaries. Amnesty International said: "The generalised contempt for and suspicion of black people within the Libyan population make fertile ground for acts of violence."

Testimonies

Abuubakar: "When we arrived in Libya, the smugglers threw us out of the vehicle in the middle of the night, two kilometres from the town of Kufra. Some people attacked us: they beat and robbed us, taking everything we had. No African can walk or travel by bus safely in Libya, they will ask for your documents and even if you show your passport, they will ask for a visa. They will slap you, tear up your papers and arrest you. We used to sleep in our shoes, so that if the soldiers came to kick in the door, we could all jump up and run."

Farah: "You live in fear. There are checkpoints everywhere. Even if you go out of your place to the grocery shop to buy something, or to call your mum from the phone booth, you are always scared, am I going to make it back safely? Are they coming at night? Is the landlord coming? You are afraid of the militias and of the people, because they may report you, even the shopkeeper."

The full report is available here.