The Libyan Contract

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Actually, control belongs in most of Libya to the militias and their leaders. No imaginable coalition is able to overwhelm all the others. The only one theoretical chance would be an uprising from within the city simultaneously with an offensive from outside. The most powerful military force in Tripolitania, the forces under control of the Misrata Military Council MMC , could probably occupy the capital but it is highly unlikely that they would be able to sustain control. While seizing and keeping the Oil Crescent could deliver a deadly blow to Haftar, facing the overwhelming air power of the LNA, the MMC forces are not capable of doing this.

The security situation in particular in the south is worsening. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb AQIM is by and large unchallenged in its safe havens and has ties with some local militia leaders on various sides. A recent attack in the Fezzan took place in Tazerbo on November 23, when nine people were killed, fourteen wounded, and ten kidnapped. At least six of the latter were executed a couple of days thereafter. ISIS operates in all regions of the country. Without a new approach for stabilization, based on what has been achieved by the Libyan Political Agreement LPA , the country will either further erode slowly or glide down into total chaos or,— if there are premature elections—break into a full-scale civil war.

Others see the UN owning the organization of the Conference, however. The confusion of roles, expectations, and lack of transparency in the process do not help the probability of a successful outcome. It is vital that a clear statement regarding the expectations and outcomes of the conference be spelled out clearly and that all participants pledge to respect its results from the beginning.

Most importantly, the carrying out of a National Conference cannot be perceived only as a way to push forward to elections and not having a value per se. This will undermine the probability of lasting reconciliation as well as undermine the legitimacy of the elections. A clear message on the intent of the National Conference is an essential prerequisite of its existence. The selection of participants is crucial, to have a really credible representation of all Libyans, who are willing to participate in a democratic process.

The best option is to invite the delegates of the democratically elected city councils as representatives of the municipalities. Where no elected city councils are available, some other kind of representative system e. A new stabilization effort must start with a series of regional ceasefires between the most important military actors. Because of its credibility in the eyes of many Libyans, the US would be best suited to broker these ceasefires, but unfortunately such an American engagement is currently not realistic.

Alternatively, under the umbrella of UNSMIL a network of several states with an influence on the warring factions could become active in a coordinated way. At the same time, the common fight against terrorism must be intensified. The ceasefires must be supervised, but not enforced because this eventuality would require a different kind of mission; one with much wider powers and a significantly higher risk of escalation.

NATO is best suited for this task, which—after its intervention in —also bears some moral responsibility for the developments in Libya. Such a supervision must include sophisticated technical means like drones, satellites, and electronic surveillance. This should allow NATO to clearly identify and stigmatize any violators. Alternatively to NATO, the European Union could also assume this role, as some of its member states have quite remarkable surveillance capabilities.

Several centralized, top-down approaches for the stabilization of Libya have failed since There is no reason why this should be different now.

Procurement | UNDP in Libya

Consequently, stabilization must be considered as a local and regional responsibility. A bottom-up approach has better prospects for success by far. The country must be stabilized under an appropriate interim framework. Visits and interviews in the segregated districts of Tripoli, where migrants and refugees from sub-Saharan countries mostly live, became possible. Later on, I could visit refugees outside Tripoli. Young men were living together, sharing two rooms. They were all educated; some of them had a university degree. They came to Libya four years ago to escape war-torn areas.

This letter stated they were entitled to fair treatment and to the respect of their special need for protection. During the interviews, the respondents told me that the UNHCR letter was of no help when they were intercepted by the Libyan security forces. Daniel was in detention for more than a year, a few weeks before I met him. He said that conditions in detention centers were dreadful and that violence by the Libyan guards was common and used in an arbitrary manner.

Furthermore, overcrowding, poor hygienic conditions, and insufficient food were a problem. Daniel said that, for the whole period of his detention, he stayed together with around 80 other detainees in a 35 square meter room. When talking about removals, the interviewees were convinced that migrants are regularly removed by plane by the Libyan authorities to other countries, but many of them are also brought to border regions in the desert. Indeed, there are reports by embassies from different sub-Saharan countries complaining that their nationals have disappeared during their removals.

Liberian interviewees explained they did not feel safe in Libya anymore, as they live in fear of being detained and it gets harder and harder to find even an occasional job. When I asked interviewees if they would cross the Mediterranean by boat, they rejected this option. In their opinion, Italy puts pressure on Libya in order to control migrants. Whole groups of migrants are preventatively detained in Libya on the grounds that they want to cross the Mediterranean to Italy, even if this was not their intention. As mentioned in the introduction, it is important to understand whether bilateral cooperation on the control of migration flows and borders may impact the conditions faced by the interviewed refugees.

Almost all the interviewees I met in Libya from sub-Saharan countries had experienced detention and imprisonment. A Nigerian man I met in a church died of tuberculosis shortly after his release from detention. I got to know him the evening of his release from prison. He was in very bad shape and said that for three days he had been drinking just salty sea water. He contracted an infection in the detention center, where contagious diseases are common.

Detailed information and numbers on detained immigrants in Libya are scarce or difficult to obtain. Concerning the impact of Italian policy on the situation of migrants in Libya, Amnesty International argued in April that there is an indirect connection between the Italian-Libyan bilateral agreements and the rising number of migrants placed in detention in Libya.

Subsequently, these were expelled from Libya to their countries of origin in autumn Before, we had this policy of seeing us as part of the Arab world and African continent And we feel that these people are our neighbors, brothers, and sisters. We feel that when you have some wealth and you are in a good position, why not allow these people to stay sometime?

And when they are coming we have traditions. When you have a guest, you cannot send a guest away; you have to feed them, at least for some time. In fact you are duty-bound to provide him with what he needs. At least, for some time. So these people are our neighbors. And when we were under colonial power we went to these countries.

Libyans used to live in Chad, in Niger, in Egypt. But now, under European pressure, we took some hard steps, some hard measures … Under European pressure, because of immigration, Libya was taking some steps which it normally will not take. By forcing them, detaining them, and then trying to force them back. And this is because of the European pressure. But some times you end up doing something which you did not want to do …We feel that it was creating a problem with our neighbors.

Malta, Italy… Then we felt that we have to do something. Let us do something to convince them that we are doing our best. The Libyan ambassador emphasized that the patterns of cooperation with Italy and the EU did not only change the policy of Libya in the field of migration and asylum. According to him, it also affected Libyan customary law, which is based on the Muslim right to hospitality and assistance to the needy.

What is interesting is the fact that current policy options are rhetorically justified and justifiable, in the above interview of the Libyan official, with reference to external forces that prompt Libya to behave coercively. However, most interestingly, is that this rhetoric also weaves its way into the discourse of some of the refugees I interviewed.

Some migrants I met have lived in Libya for many years and seemed to lead a well established life with a regular job. Astonishingly, they also did not see their future in Libya. An Eritrean woman, Nara, said:. Before, it was different, until some years ago Africans could earn some good money in Libya and then return to their families. Some go back to their home countries. I cannot go back to Eritrea. I am planning to go to Italy. Like Nara, other migrants who lived in Libya for years also seemed to be worried about their future. As Nara, who had lost a sister crossing the Mediterranean Sea, most migrants are perfectly aware of the risk they face when they travel to Italy by boat.

Regional presence

Nonetheless, they opt for the journey. The changes in the lives of migrants in Libya in recent times studied against the background of the Italian and EU cooperation policy make visible that, from a humanitarian and a border security perspective, the bilateral and European cooperation policy is counterproductive: To escape the declining situation in Libya more, and not less, migrants are trying to reach the European continent through Italy. Landings were heavily rising from to These arrivals may stem from the restrictive immigration policies that Libya has adopted over the last few years as a response to its cooperation with Italy and the European Union.

In January , the Libyan government decided to summarily deport all undocumented aliens, including would-be asylum-seekers. Human Rights Watch has documented abuses by smugglers, militias and criminal gangs against migrants in Libya for over a decade. She said she was repeatedly raped. Every night he did this to me. She said the pregnancy was the result of the rape. There is significant evidence that smugglers operate in varying degrees of collusion with government officials and militias. A confidential UN Panel of Experts report on Libya leaked to the press in February and reviewed by Human Rights Watch concluded that most smuggling and trafficking groups have links to official security institutions.

Foreigners, regardless of age, without authorization to be in Libya are detained on the basis of laws dating back to the Gaddafi era that criminalize undocumented entry, stay and exit punishable by imprisonment, fines, and forced labor. Immigration detention in Libya can be indefinite because the law does not specify a maximum term, providing only that detention be followed by deportation.

There are no formal procedures in place allowing detainees access to a lawyer or any opportunity to challenge the decision to detain them.


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Prolonged detention of adults and children other than the period strictly necessary to carry out a lawful deportation and without access to judicial review amounts to arbitrary detention and is prohibited under international law. Human Rights Watch learned of only one instance where Libyan authorities allegedly freed detainees from immigration detention through a judicial process. In that case, five Palestinians and two Syrians who had been intercepted at sea and detained at Tajoura center were released after paying fines for illegal entry and exit.

The director of Tajoura center told Human Rights Watch these individuals later were on board a rescue ship that disembarked in Spain in June While centers are staffed with DCIM personnel, most centers are under the effective control of whichever armed group controls the neighborhood where a center is located. Researchers noted the presence of unmarked armed vehicles parked outside the center and the entry of militia members into the premises. At the Tajoura detention center, a militia known as Katibat al-Dhaman, under command of Mohamed Dreider, is in charge of providing security for the prison complex that houses the DCIM facility and a separate prison under the Justice Ministry.

Researchers noted the presence of armed men from the militia within the complex.


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  5. Armed men were present within the al-Karareem compound during the visit. At the Zuwara detention center, a militia known as the Zuwara Protection Force, under the Zuwara Military Council, is in charge of providing security for the town including the detention center. As noted, militias and other armed groups operate an unknown number of unofficial detention centers.

    One asylum seeker from Darfur told researchers he was held for two weeks in the military camp of Brigade , a major Misrata-led and GNA-aligned armed group in Tripoli and was forced to work at no pay. When new managers or guards take over, the detention regime can change, becoming more or less violent and allowing or barring the provision of services by the UN or NGOs. While some of the detainees in DCIM centers were arrested in raids on smuggler camps, private homes, and in stops on the streets, the increase in interceptions at sea by the LCG is swelling numbers at the centers and contributing to greater overcrowding and deteriorating conditions.

    The arbitrary and indefinite nature of the immigration detention system in Libya means there are only discretionary, informal and often dangerous or exploitative ways for people to get out. Some detainees are released to work in private homes, on farms, or in construction. Some are paid for their labor and then allowed to leave or escape.

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    Human Rights Watch has, however, heard numerous statements of people forced to work for no pay. You work for months and then maybe they sell you to someone else. Suleyman, a year-old from Darfur in the Sudan, said he was forced to work without pay for an armed group while he was detained at a DCIM detention center in Tripoli known as Trig el-Matar. Bribing guards or consular officials to secure release is another way out of detention. Some detainees attempt risky escapes from detention centers. Detainees at Tajoura center told us several men had attempted an escape a few weeks before our visit, and that while a few managed to get away, guards shot at and injured several others.

    A detainee at the al-Karareem detention center in Misrata said he was tortured after helping three men escape. Some representatives of embassies in Tripoli visit detention centers, or conduct Skype interviews with nationals, to facilitate repatriation. The director of Ain Zara center said most detainees, especially Sudanese nationals, refuse to meet with their embassies, though he recalled one occasion in which a Sudanese government representative convinced a group of Sudanese to accept repatriation.

    According to a released detainee from Palestine, one Palestinian asylum seeker from Gaza who spent 1. We also heard of visits by Somali embassy staff to Ain Zara and Tajoura centers, including earlier on the same day that we visited Tajoura. Somalis are among the nine nationalities UNHCR may register as people of concern given a presumption of protection needs; efforts by Somali officials to identify and repatriate nationals raise serious concerns unless the Somali nationals in question have prior access to UNHCR for a determination of any protection needs or risks upon return.

    Until October , UNHCR was able to secure the release of particularly vulnerable asylum seekers—primarily women and children as well as critical and urgent medical cases—into their care in Libya; that year 1, people were released into the care of the agency. These programs are discussed in the next chapter. The approach has the effect of avoiding the legal responsibilities that arise when migrants and asylum seekers reach EU territory, including territorial waters, or otherwise come under EU jurisdiction. EU law and jurisprudence justly affirms the right to seek asylum, the right to fair procedures, and the right to humane treatment.

    Political calculations also influence policy choices. Nevertheless, this funding has not helped to diminish the widespread and systematic violence and abysmal conditions in migrant detention centers. As of June , Libyan Coast Guard and Navy personnel had participated in training courses, out of 3, total personnel. None of them had had any training at all, according to the report. A former colonial power in Libya, Italy has deep historical, political, and economic ties with the country, and engaged in significant migration cooperation agreements with the Gaddafi government.

    Italy is carrying out an EU-funded project to assist Libya in setting up a maritime rescue coordination center MRCC , which is expected to be operational in In the meantime, a Libyan operations room has been set up aboard an Italian Navy ship docked in Tripoli. The Libyan Coast Guard does not have capacity to provide continuous coverage or rapid response in every case of distress in the entire area that Libya unilaterally delineated as its search and rescue zone.

    Relying heavily on technical and surveillance assistance from Italy, the LCG increased the number of interceptions in the first half of The LCG intercepted 12, people in the first seven months of , a 41 percent increase over the same period in Commercial ships are being called upon to respond to situations of distress and put in the position of having to hand migrants and asylum seekers to Libyan Coast Guard forces at sea or disembark people directly in Libya. In several instances, Italy has instructed commercial ships in the initial phase of a rescue only to hand coordination over to Libyan authorities.

    Human Rights Watch was not able to independently confirm this information.

    While 50 were taken to detention centers, 29 were reportedly imprisoned on criminal charges relating to hijacking and piracy. A Spanish fishing boat, the Nuestra Madre de Loreto, remained at sea for ten days with 11 people it rescued in international waters late November Malta agreed to allow disembarkation on December 2, , on the condition everyone would be subsequently transferred to Spain. The rate of death per attempted crossing has significantly increased. UNHCR estimated that one in 18 people died or went missing in the period January-July compared to one in every 42 people in the same period in According to the IOM, there were 20 recorded deaths in April and 11 in May , while an estimated people died or went missing in June Alexandra, 25, mother of two children from Ghana, who had travelled to Libya with her husband Kofi, 32, said they had both been on a boat with people in June and, after the Coast Guard intercepted and disembarked them, they saw dead bodies of migrants:.

    Some interviewees described acts of intimidation or violence by members of the Coast Guard during interceptions.

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    Joanna, 34, from Cameroon and mother of three, said that she was on a boat with people that was already in international waters after 10 hours at sea in early June , when a Coast Guard vessel approached:. Ahmed, 26, a Palestinian from Gaza, described a similar incident in May when the Coast Guard approached the boat he was on after 11 hours at sea, during his second attempt to reach Europe. Ahmed said they were in sight of a large orange-colored ship:. The rescue group said that the Libyan Coast Guard declined their repeated offers of assistance and ordered the ship to leave the area.

    They are defensive, saying they need to protect migrants when lives are at risk. We are trying to shape a narrative whereby they treat Africans with respect. Staff members of international humanitarian organizations operating in Libya described to Human Rights Watch poor coordination and even disputes among humanitarian actors, including UN agencies, and the lack of a conflict-sensitive framework that requires assessment of the interaction between humanitarian assistance and the conflict context to avoid negative impacts. More broadly, these observers expressed concern that humanitarian assistance to detainees in official detention centers, vital as it may be, served to prop up a system of abusive, arbitrary detention and provide a fig leaf for EU migration control policies.

    Each agency is responsible for six disembarkation points, where they provide basic material assistance hygiene kits , quick medical checks, although not systematically for all who are disembarked, and register basic information about each person, mostly limited to the name and nationality. Accounts from individuals intercepted by the LCG suggest that these UN agencies are not present at all disembarkations, either because they take place in unofficial locations, remote locations, or during the late hours of the night, or because the agencies are unable to send staff. Mulugeta, a year-old from Ethiopia who was detained in Zuwara when we interviewed him, said there were no international organizations present when he was disembarked in that city in June A group of men wearing a mix of uniforms and civilian clothes took all their money and cell phones, and one of them beat Mulugeta when he asked for his possessions, he said.

    UN agencies are trying to systematize registration of all migrants at disembarkation points, using electronic tablets to record basic information. Once people are placed in detention, they may be transferred to other centers without proper record-keeping, or leave the center in a variety of ways, including transfer into the hands of smuggling networks, payment of a bribe, removal by militias for forced labor, or escape. Detention centers do not systematically make a record of the name, nationality and age of every person who is transferred into the center.

    This means DCIM, but also UN agencies and humanitarian organizations present in detention centers, easily lose track of people and are unable to find them again. In early September , UNHCR issued a press release reporting that smugglers and traffickers were impersonating their staff at disembarkation points as well as other locations.

    I tried to call but then I had to get on the bus. A detainee in the Misrata detention center may also have met impersonators at disembarkation. In parallel with its collective efforts to prevent boat migration from Libya, the EU is underwriting UN programs to help migrants and asylum seekers get out of arbitrary detention in Libya. While these programs have helped large numbers of people escape inhumane treatment and conditions, they have done little to address the systemic problems with immigration detention in Libya and serve as a fig leaf to cover the injustice of the EU containment policy.

    In Niamey, asylum seekers undergo full refugee status determination for the purposes of resettlement. By the end of November , 2, had been evacuated to Niger, with an additional evacuated directly to Italy and 95 to a UNHCR emergency transit center in Romania. Although Libya is a party to the Organization of the African Union Refugee Convention, it is not a party to the Refugee Convention and has, as yet, no formal mechanism to protect individuals fleeing persecution, not to mention the practical and security obstacles to doing so in Libya at present.

    Negotiations on an MoU continue with little progress. As a consequence, they cannot benefit from evacuation. UNHCR is also facilitating the return to asylum seekers currently in detention in Libya to the countries where they first registered with the agency. According to UNHCR Libya, three countries—Sudan, Ethiopia, and Chad—have agreed to receive people back in these circumstances and the agency is continuing advocacy with other countries.

    Since January , IOM has repatriated around 30, people. The range of reintegration measures varies among destination countries. The VHR program, as it is known, provides a vital service to people whose migration dream has turned into a nightmare and who want to return to their home country safely and are able to do so.

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    Human Rights Watch spoke to numerous detainees who had experienced devastating losses and abuse along their journeys, and who wished to return home. However, the fact that access to VHR is one of the few ways detainees can regain freedom from the abysmal conditions and treatment in detention fundamentally undermines the voluntary nature of the program. Hamza, 31, from Morocco told us violence by the guards at the Zuwara facility influenced his decision to register for repatriation with an embassy official the day before we spoke.

    Now I have changed my mind. Other Moroccans want to leave too. A humanitarian worker in Libya who wished to remain anonymous said IOM is essentially deporting people on behalf of the Libyan authorities, free of charge. These returns, and UNHCR evacuations, he said, are not real long-term solutions, and are not working to empty detention centers given the rate of interceptions followed by automatic detention. He argued that decriminalizing irregular entry and stay, and the creation of pathways to regularization of status in Libya, are key to addressing abuses against migrants in the country.

    Isaac began on his journey with his brother, with a plan to work in Italy to save money and then study in the United Kingdom to become a lawyer. He wished to support his widowed sick mother. Smugglers in Sebha, a southern city that serves as a major hub for migrants, held him and his brother captive where, Isaac said, they killed his brother and burned Isaac on his stomach and left arm to extort more money out of his family.

    She cried. Because Isaac did not fear for his life or his freedoms back home, he had the option to return to Nigeria as a way to escape detention, though returning would end his migration dreams. However, others risk being forced to return to places where they do face serious risks. Somalis, who are able to register with UNHCR, are reportedly signing up in large numbers for repatriation.

    Human Rights Watch heard repeated complaints from migrants and asylum seekers, but also from Libyan detention authorities, that IOM and UNHCR came only rarely and were not able to register enough people when they did visit. A group of 13 Ivorian women detained in the Ain Zara center told us on July 5, , that they had been intercepted by the Coast Guard in mid-June.

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    They wished to return home and were frustrated that they had not yet been registered by IOM. The campaign has included all detention centers in Tripoli and the mountain town of Zintan and will be expanded to include centers in cities to the west of Tripoli and in and around Misrata. In , Human Rights Watch reported on migrant detention centers in Libya. At the time, in eight out of the nine centers visited, we witnessed massive overcrowding, dire sanitary conditions, and inadequate medical care. We documented torture, including beatings with all manner of implements, burning with cigarettes, electric shocks, and whippings while being hung from a tree.

    These were Tajoura and Ain Zara centers, both located on the outskirts of Tripoli, Zuwara center in the town of the same name near the border with Tunisia, and the center in the area of al-Karareem, near Misrata, a city to the east of Tripoli. We witnessed overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, inadequate health care.

    We heard about low quantity and poor-quality food and water in all centers. While women are accommodated separately from men in all four centers, none of the facilities conformed with international guidelines on conditions and treatment of women in detention. All guards are male. NGOs are able to provide only limited prenatal and maternal healthcare, menstrual hygiene supplies are insufficient. Survivors of sexual violence before or during detention have extremely limited options for physical and psychological care.

    Accounts collected by human rights organizations and UN agencies indicate that sexual violence is a widespread phenomenon along the migration journey, in Libya, and in detention centers. In every center, staff complained of material shortages, security and health concerns for the guards, including lack of health insurance and vaccinations for staff, and disregard by international humanitarian organizations for the needs of staff.

    All said that the government was late in paying private contractors who provided food, water and cleaning material, which adversely affected the quantity and quality of food provided to detainees. No detention center has healthcare professionals on staff. Humanitarian organizations, as well as UN agencies, provide some medical attention, including maternal and post-partum care, but their access is limited. In Misrata, Tajoura, and Zuwara we heard disturbing accounts from both adults and children of violence by guards, including beatings, whippings and use of electric shocks.

    Detainees in all centers said that guards treated them roughly and insulted them.