Asharq Al-awsat English https://aawsat.com/english Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper http://feedly.com/icon.svg

Exclusive – Libya Migrant Route: A Voyage Ending in Death

Exclusive – Libya Migrant Route: A Voyage Ending in Death

Monday, 10 December, 2018 - 09:00
A Libyan coast guardsman stands on a boat during the rescue of illegal immigrants attempting to reach Europe off the coastal town of Zawiyah, in June 2017. (AFP)
Cairo – Jamal Jawhar
The Libyan security forces’ storming of the Nivin cargo ship in November raised questions over the ongoing flow of illegal immigrants into the north African country. The incident highlighted the treacherous route taken by desperate migrants through African and Asian countries in the hope of reaching the ultimate destination: Europe.

The 79 passengers of the Nivin were forced to disembark the ship after they had initially refused to leave. They endured “very difficult” conditions in Libya at a Misrata detention center before being deported to their countries.

Consultant at the Arab-European academy for strategic studies Mahmoud Ali al-Tweir described to Asharq Al-Awsat the route they have to take as “deadly” and in which human trafficking gangs are the victors.

A Somali migrant held in a Janzur detention center said that he left behind a big family and came to Libya to work until he raised enough money to immigrate to Europe.

He revealed that he spent large sums of money on mediators to ensure his travel to Libya. Before he could reach his final destination, however, he was caught along with ten other migrants.

An official at the illegal migrant directorate in Libya Abdulsalam Aleywan told Asharq Al-Awsat that the difficult conditions in the Horn of Africa are pushing thousands of migrants to leave their countries and seek the “European utopia.”

“Unfortunately, they end up falling prey to human trafficking rings,” he explained.

“Libya is being greatly harmed by the never-ending flow of illegal migrants,” he said.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that more than 22,541 illegal migrants had arrived to Italy since January. Many others die at sea as they try to make the dangerous journey in unsafe vessels that are usually loaded to more than their capacities.

Some 1,277 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean in 2018 compared to 2,786 in 2017.

Migrants departing Libya for Europe can follow seven different routes, explained Tweir.

Migrants head to Libya from African and eastern Asian countries, as well as some Maghreb countries, he revealed. They sometimes arrive in Libya through legal means, but once they settle there, they begin to plan their sea route to Europe.

The police force affiliated to the Government of National Accord had used rubber bullets to force the 79 illegal migrants, who hail from Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Ethiopia, to leave the Nivin.

They were attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in November when they were rescued at sea by the ship that was already bound for Misrata.

Libya’s navy spokesman, Ayoub Jassem, said security forces boarded the ship after negotiations with the migrants failed to convince them to disembark voluntarily.

“Only 14 of at least 94 migrants agreed to leave the ship,” he told The Associated Press. “Only six migrants were wounded in the operation and they were taken to a nearby hospital.”

A security source said that several of the migrants had spent years in Libyan jails on various charges.

“The poor humanitarian situation they endured in their countries forced them to risk the voyage to Europe and forced them to deal with human traffickers,” he added on condition of anonymity.

Several of the migrants that make it to Libya through traffickers find employment in construction and agriculture, he continued. After embarking to Europe, many drown on the dangerous journey.

“We have retrieved many bodies from the Mediterranean,” he stated. “Others who are saved at sea are kept at detention centers where they again begin to concoct ways to illegally immigrate by sea.”

Editor Picks

Multimedia