According to reports citing Julien Raickmann, Doctors without Borders (MSF) chief in Libya, “Those interned there, mainly refugees, keep dying of diseases and hunger,” “They are victims of violence, rape and arbitrary treatment at the hands of militias,” Raickmann added.
Benjamin Gaudin of aid organisation Première Urgence Internationale (PUI) echoed Raickmann’s statement. “Sometimes, the refugees are literally piled up on top of each other, under horrendous hygienic conditions and with great difficulty to access water,” Gaudin said. “Every now and then, there’s no drinking water whatsoever.”
Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s special emissary for the central Mediterranean area, said the EU couldn’t just continue with the agreed repatriations. “In a sense, the European countries are blind to the situation of migrants in Libya.”
The youngest fighting in Libya had exacerbated the situation, Cochetel added, referring to the offensive Libyan general Khalifa Haftar launched in April to capture Tripoli. More than one thousand people have died as a result, according to UN estimates. This adds to several clips released by several news outlets in February showcasing camps run by human traffickers. In one clip, a man is seen lying on the ground and screaming in pain from a blow torch directed at the soles of his feet. Another man was hanging head-down from the ceiling with a gun pointed at him. The militias were hoping to extort money from the victims’ families.
Desperation among the refugees was so great that in May, a man jumped off his shaky boat into the sea when he saw the Libyan coast guard approaching. German private sea rescue organisation Sea-Watch recorded the situation.
Rejecting the criticism, the EU said their agreement with Libya and specifically with the Libyan Coast Guard, had significantly reduced the number of refugee arrivals in Italy.
The European Commission (EC) also defended the course of action, arguing that some €336 million have been collected since 2014 for programs in connection with migrants in Libya.
However, the Council of European last month called for an end of the cooperation with the Libyan coast guard amid the devastating conditions.
The Libyan coast guard, meanwhile, argued that Libya was a “victim” of the migration flows. General Ajub Kacem said refugees were a “burden” for the country. He accused the EU of "lacking concern" for refugees’ fate.