17 June 2017

Libya: Efforts Under Way to Rescue African Migrants Held for Ransom in Libya

Photo: UN
UN human rights report urges end to 'unimaginable abuse' of migrants in Libya

The International Organization for Migration reports efforts are ongoing to rescue around 200 migrants, from Somalia and Ethiopia, who have been kidnapped in Libya and are being held for ransom.

News of the kidnappings and illegal detentions in Libya first surfaced in a video, which appeared on Facebook on June 9. The International Organization for Migration says families of the missing men and women have received ransom demands based on short video clips depicting scenes of active torture.

IOM spokesman Joel Millman told VOA the source of the video is not known, but there is little doubt as to its veracity. He said the scenes of people, dozens to a room, are graphic.

"We understand that there are cases of people being tortured by cement blocks, I think, being put on their chest or put on their back," he said. "There are limbs broken. There are scars and cases of slack, listless men who appear to be emaciated. The witnesses themselves complain about not having been fed for quite some time."

Millman said the criminal gangs demand that families pay ransoms of $8,000 or more for the release of their loved ones. He said the families sell their livestock and other assets to meet these demands.

Women and children wait their turn to get on onboard the rescue vessel Golfo Azzurro by members of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, after being rescued from a wooden boat sailing out of control in the Mediterranean Sea, about 18 miles north of Sabrath Libya, June 15, 2017.

There is nothing new about the slaving industry, he said, as it has been around throughout history. What is new, he added, is the ready availability of digital devices and of high speed communication, even to some of the poorest villages in the world

"It gives criminals an opportunity to profit from the digital age," he said. "There is no question that it is true that you can terrify a mother and father with a tweet or with an email or with a video you download onto a telephone in seconds. That kind of thing was not possible a generation ago and it is probably going to get worse."

The IOM said it is working with partners to try to locate the migrants and its staff, in coordination with authorities in Libya, is trying to trace and potentially aid in the rescue of these victims.

The politically-unstable country is a transit point for migrants seeking to head to Europe. The lack of a stable government makes them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Libya

Dance With the Devil - Europe Finances Libyan Militias to Curb Migration

By empowering Libyan warlords and constraining rescue missions, migrant numbers to Italy have halved. But at what cost? Read more »

Copyright © 2017 Voice of America. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 900 reports a day from more than 150 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.