Hundreds of thousands of refugees have passed through Libya on their journey toward Europe, where they cross a short distance over the sea from Libya into Lampedusa, Italy. These refugees in Libya face grave danger from Libya’s Islamic State militant group and from human traffickers.
The Libyan government must take the steps necessary to protect these refugees; however, Libya has been without a centralized government since 2014. Here are ten facts that outline the trials and tribulations faced on the journey of refugees in Libya:
- The number of refugees passing through Libya has quadrupled since 2013. The increase in refugee traffic results in an increase in migration through Europe, where refugees are able to create their new lives.
- Previously, 87 percent of the almost one million refugees who crossed into Europe arrived through Greece. Now these refugees have been redirected through Libya as a result of the EU-Turkey deal that resettles one refugee for everyone turned away.
- These hundreds of thousands of refugees in Libya are traveling from over 12 countries, mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa. Refugees face many dangers on their journey, but the new start that awaits them beyond the Libyan border is motivation enough to brave any sort of obstacles.
- However, refugees who do pass across the Libyan border are sometimes intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard and detained in overcrowded detention centers until they are deported back to their home countries.
- Aside from the coast guard, many refugees are taken in by human traffickers and subject to torture. This results from a lack of government centralization and control to reduce the crime that occurs in Libya, which could be improved by foreign aid to assist the Libyan government to create a safer environment for its citizens.
- Armed groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant also intercept refugees on their journey toward Europe. These armed groups are able to infest Libya by way of a weak government that has little ability to remove or keep out these dangers, though the Libyan government also poses a danger to its citizens.
- Refugees in Libya are at great risk of religious persecution. Those who are persecuted can be detained by the Libyan government.
- Female refugees in Libya can face rape and starvation at the hands of human traffickers or smugglers who sell them to criminal gangs. Despite it being incredibly dangerous for refugees to pass through Libya, many still risk it to cross into Europe.
- Mass rape is such a significant issue for refugees in Libya that women often take contraceptive pills before traveling through the area.
- The deputy director of Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa has called for the Libyan government and authorities as well as the European Union to protect refugees from abuse as they pass through Libya.
In order to protect refugees from facing abuse, the Libyan government and the EU should focus on finding safer routes and methods of exit for the refugees who are trapped in Libya instead of focusing on keeping refugees away. Refugees who come from over a dozen countries to pass through Libya may traverse dangerous roads, but it is with the intent to create new lives for the refugees and their families.
– Amanda Panella