The United Nations has released a new report which details the unimaginable horrors Nigerian migrants were being subjected from the moment they entered Libya and throughout their stay in that country.
The report, released by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), also showed the horrors of attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
Entitled: ‘Desperate and Dangerous: Report on the human rights situation of migrants and refugees in Libya’, it detailed the horrific conditions Nigerian migrants and refugees faced during their transit through and stay in Libya.
The findings were based on first-hand accounts gathered by UN human rights staff from Nigerian migrants in Libya, those who had returned to Nigeria, and Nigerians who managed to reach Italy.
The report covered 20-months up till August 2018, detailing a terrible litany of violations and abuses committed by a range of state officials, armed groups, smugglers and traffickers against migrants and refugees.
The accounts of the Nigerian migrants were mostly those of woes ranging from unlawful killings to gang rape, prostitution, arbitrary detention, torture and inhumane treatment, unpaid wages, slavery, human trafficking, racism and xenophobia.
Libyan law criminalises irregular entry into, stay in or exit from the country with a penalty of imprisonment and pending deportation, without any consideration of individual circumstances or protection needs. For instance, a 27-year-old man from Nigeria, who was held in captivity in Sabratah between May and October 2017, gave an account of death penalty in Libya. He described witnessing a migrant being shot by a “drunk guard for no apparent reason,” and another being shot point blank over a disagreement about a sim card.
A Nigerian woman who had returned home in December 2017, gave account of rape, forced prostitution and other sexual violence.
“To be sold and forced to have sex with Arab or African men either to pay for the journey or to extract your money is a common thing to happen to you as a woman or a girl; all over the journey from day one in the desert until you depart Libya.”
A woman from Nigeria who arrived in Italy in April 2018 recounted being raped consecutively by four men, about three times a week, while held at a site in Sabha. She described how five men would enter detainees’ cells together and concurrently rape five women.
When she arrived in Libya, she was in the early stages of pregnancy and suffered a miscarriage, she believed, as a result of rape. She claimed that when women died at the facility, guards would just shrug and remove the bodies.
Women and girls were compelled to engage in sexual acts against their will and were under the absolute power and control of their captors, the Nigerian migrants recounted.
“In particular, Nigerian women and girls appear to be vulnerable to trafficking by multinational criminal networks in their countries of origin.
“They embark on their journeys believing office work awaits them in Europe but find themselves in so-called “connection houses” (“brothels”) in Libya,” the report stated.
A 22-year-old Nigerian woman, who was forcibly taken to a “connection house” in Tripoli’s Gergaresh neighbourhood shortly after arriving to Libya, was given a “choice” of either paying a “debt” of 24,000 Libyan dinars (then about $28,000) to her traffickers or engaging in sexual activities.