Europe-bound Nigerian migrants are being subjected to "unimaginable horrors" from the moment they enter Libya, throughout their stay in the country, according to a new UN report.
The 61-page report, titled "Desperate and Dangerous: Report on the human rights situation of migrants and refugees in Libya" also detailed horrors during their subsequent attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
It was published jointly by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN Human Rights Office and covered a 20-month period up to August 2018.
The report detailed a terrible litany of violations and abuses committed by a range of State officials, armed groups, smugglers and traffickers against migrants and refugees.
These include unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary detention, gang rape, slavery, forced labour, and extortion.
The report was based on 1,300 first-hand accounts gathered by UN human rights staff in Libya itself, as well from migrants who have returned to Nigeria or reached Italy.
It also traces the entire journey of migrants and refugees from Libya's southern border, across the desert to the northern coast - a journey "marred by a considerable risk of serious human rights violations and abuses every step of the way."
"The climate of lawlessness in Libya provides fertile ground for thriving illicit activities, such as trafficking in human beings and criminal smuggling, and leaves migrants and refugees at the mercy of countless predators who view them as commodities to be exploited and extorted," the report said.
"The overwhelming majority of women and older teenage girls interviewed by UNSMIL reported being gang-raped by smugglers or traffickers," it added.
UN staff visiting 11 detention centres, where thousands of migrants and refugees are being held, documented torture, ill-treatment, forced labour, and rape by the guards, and reported that women are often held in facilities without female guards, exacerbating the risk of sexual abuse and exploitation.
Female detainees are often subjected to strip searches carried out, or watched, by male guards.
The report pointed to the apparent "complicity of some State actors, including local officials, members of armed groups formally integrated into State institutions, and representatives of the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence, in the smuggling or trafficking of migrants and refugees."
"Many people are held in unofficial and illegal centres run directly by armed groups or criminal gangs. They are frequently sold from one criminal group to another and required to pay multiple ransoms.
"Countless migrants and refugees lost their lives during captivity by smugglers after being shot, tortured to death, or simply left to die from starvation or medical neglect," the report said.
"Across Libya, unidentified bodies of migrants and refugees bearing gunshot wounds, torture marks and burns are frequently uncovered in rubbish bins, dry river beds, farms, and the desert."
"The situation is utterly dreadful," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet."
"Tackling the rampant impunity would not only end the suffering of tens of thousands of migrant and refugee women, men and children seeking a better life, but also undercut the parallel illicit economy built on the abuse of these people and help establish the rule of law and national institutions."
The report called on the European Union and its Member States to reconsider the human costs of their policies and efforts to stem migration to Europe and ensure that their cooperation and assistance to the Libyan authorities are human rights-based.