immigrants in detention center in Libya

Not long ago, Libya opened its doors to foreigners. Eager for cheap labor, the Libyan government and its leader Mu`ammar al-Qadhafi welcomed Africans in the spirit of pan-African solidarity.
Those days are gone. In recent years thousands of sub-Saharan migrants, asylum seekers and refugees have left Libya or transited through it to Europe, riding in packed smugglers’ boats to Italy. The European Union has urged Libya to stem the flow.

Over the past three years, the Libyan government has taken a number of steps towards that aim. It has toughened its border controls, both in the desert and along the coast. It has bolstered its immigration department, and now cooperates more closely with the European Union, individual European governments and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on migration control.

Tales of african immigrants of survived detention centers in Libya

TTigiste, a woman migrant who survived a Libyan detention centre, says her uncle, who is still in detention, was tortured with electric shocks and beaten by the guards. When they thought he was dead, they threw his body in the garbage.
"He was there for two days. Then someone went and touched him and he stirred."
The detention centres are described as hopeless, dark, overcrowded and lacking basic sanitation and hygiene facilities.

Death, violence and racism are said to be the order of the day, with migrants being refused medical care and fed just two bread rolls a day.
One migrant recalls the words guards used to deny help to one of his dehydrated friends: "Here the hospital is not for black people but only for Libyans. If you want, go back and die in your country."
"Many of us had scabies. Some of my friends had swollen genitals. When the guards saw this they beat them hard with a stick, put them in solitary confinement and just left them there," another migrant says.

"The guards smoke hashish and get high and then they hit anyone. When they do the head count, they count each person by slapping or boxing him," one of the detention survivors says.

"We went on hunger strike to leave the prison and they used electric prods to make us stop, jabbing us again and again on our muscles. I can never forget that," another migrant, Asad, is quoted as saying.

The worst thing about detention seems to be that there is no end to it, unless one pays for a way out. One migrant was only allowed to leave after paying $500; another $1,200.
However, even after this sum is paid, the migrants have to survive the dangers of the city and if caught by the police they may easily be detained again. "Sometimes, those who paid for their freedom were re-arrested a few minutes after leaving prison," Ahmad says.

African migrants having hard time in Libya. Presindent of Libya, he is currently the president of Afican Union. He is calling for one africa state! Follow the stories below to know what is going on African migrants in Libya

The iron door is closed. From the small loophole I see the faces of two African guys and one Egyptian. I can't stand the acrid smell coming from the holding cells. I ask them to move. Now I can see the whole room, three meters per eight. There are some thirty people inside. Piled one over the other. There are no beds, people sleep on the ground on some dirty foam mattresses. Behind, on the walls, somebody has written Guantanamo. But we are not in the U.S. base. We are in Zlitan, in Libya. And the detainees they are not suspected terrorists, but immigrants arrested south of Lampedusa.

People press behind the door. They have not been receiving any visits since they were arrested. Someone raises the voice: “Help us!" A young man put the hand out of the loophole and give me a piece of cardboard. There is written a telephone number, by pen. The prefix is that of Gambia. I put it in my pocket, hiding from the police. His name is Outhman. He asks me to tell his mother he is still alive. He has been locked in this prison for the last five months. Fabrice instead spent here nine months. Both of them were arrested during police raids in the immigrants neighbourhoods in Tripoli. Since several years actually, Libya is committed to patrol the European southern border. With any means. In 2003 Italy signed an agreement with Gaddafi and sent oversea motorboats, cars and body-bags... funding detention centres and deportation flights. Since then, tens of thousands of immigrants and refugees every year are arrested in Libya and held in such inhuman conditions.

"People are suffering here! The food is bad, and the water is dirty. We are sick and there are pregnant women." Gift is 29 years old. She is from Nigeria. She was arrested three months ago, while she was walking with her husband on the street. They left two children in Tripoli, she said. She is not allowed to call them. Her husband has been repatriated the previous week. She is still here, alone, wearing the same clothes she had when she was taken prisoner. Before, she has been living in Libya for three years, working as a hairdresser, and she didn't have any idea to cross the sea towards Italy, as many of the other immigrants who are here.

It is not the case of Y. Because he really dreamed about Europe. He is Eritrean and he deserted the army in order to seek for political asylum in Europe. He was apprehended in the sea. By the Libyans police. And locked here in Zlitan. Before entering in the office of the director – Ahmed Salim -, a policeman whispers something to him. When we ask him about the conditions of the prison, he answers with a trembling voice: "Everything is good." He is frightened. He knows that if he says something wrong he will be beaten. The director smiles in front of him and grants us he will not be deported. Within the next week he will be transferred to the detention centre of Misratah, 210 km east of Tripoli, where all the Eritreans refugees are concentrated.

Koubros managed to escape from Twaisha only few weeks ago. He is Eritrean, 27 years old. He used to live in Sudan, but after an Eritrean friend was deported from Khartoum, he suddenly decided to leave towards a safer place in Europe. He went out from Twaisha walking with crutches. He says he was seriously beaten by a drunk policeman who asked him money. Hopefully his Eritreans cell mates collect some money to let him free. To bribe a prison guard $ 300 is enough.

I met him in front of the church of San Francesco, in Tripoli. Like every Friday, about fifty African migrants are waiting for the opening of Caritas. Tadrous is one of them. He was released last October from the prison of Surman. He is one of the few refugees having been judged by a court. His story interests me. It was on June 2008. They took the sea from Zuwarah, in 90 people. But after a few hours they decided to come back, because of the stormy sea, and they were arrested. The judge sentenced them to 5 months of detention, with the charge of illegal emigration. I ask him if he was given a lawyer. He simply smiles shaking the head. The answer is no.

Nothing strange, says the lawyer Abdussalam Edgaimish. Libyan law does not provide free legal aid for crimes punishable by less than three years. Edgaimish is the director of the Bar of Tripoli. He welcomes us in his office, in the First September road. He explains us that the practice of arrest and detention of immigrants have nor legal basis neither a validation from the court. Any Libyan citizen, according to the law, could not be deprived of liberty without a warrant of arrest. But for foreigners it is not the same. Police raids are usual. The practice is that of house-to-house raids in the suburbs of Tripoli.

"Migrants are victims of a conspiracy between the two shores of the Mediterranean. Europe sees only a security problem, but nobody wants to talk about their rights. " Jumaa Atigha is also a lawyer of Tripoli, graduated in Rome in 1983. Since 1999, he chaired the Organization for the Human Rights of the Foundation led by the firstborn of Gaddafi, Saif al Islam. In 2007 he resigned. During his presidency he led a national campaign, making the Government release 1,000 political prisoners. He describes a country involved in a rapid change, but still far from an ideal situation with respect to individual and political freedom. Atigha knows well the conditions of detention in Libya. From 1991 to 1998 he has been jailed without trial, as a political prisoner. He tells us that torture is a common practice among the Libyan policemen. "The lack of awareness means that policemen think to serve justice, while they are torturing people”

Mustafa O. Attir think the same. He is professor of sociology in the Tripoli University of El Fatah. "It is not simply a problem of racism. Libyans are kind with foreigners. It is a matter of police." Attir knows what he says. He visited Libyan prisons as a researcher in 1972, 1984 and 1986. Police officers have no education – he tells us - and are instead educated to the concept of punishment.

Suddenly his words make me rethink to the Ghanaian hairdressers in the medina, the Chadian tailors, the Sudanese shops, the Egyptians waiters, the Moroccan ladies in the cafeterias, and the Africans cleaning the roads every night. While Eritreans refugees are hiding themselves in the suburbs of Gurji and Krimia, thousands of African immigrants live and work here, maybe exploited, but with a relative peace. Certainly for Sudaneses and Chadians people, everything is easier. They speak Arabic and they are Muslims. They have been living in Libya for tens of years and therefore they are quite tolerated. The same for Egyptians and Moroccans. Instead is different for Eritreans and Ethiopians. They are here only for a transit to Europe. Often they do not speak Arabic. Often they are Christians. And their grandparents fought against Libyans with the Italian colonial troops. And as they travel with the money for the crossing in the pocket, they are often stolen even in the street. For the Nigerians, and more generally for the Anglophone sub-Saharan, is different. If they are directed to Europe or not, it is not important. Their integration in the Libyan society clashes systematically with the racist stereotypes against Nigerians, linked to the crimes of some Nigerian criminal networks. They are accused of smuggling drugs and alcohol, exploiting prostitution, bringing the Hiv virus and perpetrating robbery and murders.