Eritrean refugees fearing torture for ransom forced off Libyan boat

By EEPA

Aljazeera and other media report that Libyan security forces raided a ship, using rubber bullets and tear gas to force the refugees to disembark in the Libyan city Misrata. A commander of the Libyan coast guard said that some migrants were wounded during the operation, but were better “in good condition” after being brought to the hospital. Reportedly, two underaged Eritreans were among those seriously injured. The group had refused to leave the ship as they feared abuse and being sold to human traffickers.

A reporter for France24 said that the Libyan coast guard has extended the area it monitors and that migrants are brought back to Libyan ports, which might be contrary to the Geneva convention which requires ships with rescued persons to head for safe ports. The UNHCR earlier this year deemed Libyan ports unsafe in a report.

Having been intercepted in the Mediterranean Sea, a group of at least 79 Eritrean refugees had pledged not to leave the boat they boarded to reach Europe and were starving, said refugees in two videos posted on Facebook. The group was brought back to the Libyan coast by a Panamanian-flagged cargo ship. A young man who says he is 16 years old stated that he had lived in Libya since 2016 and had been sold three times, that he had been punished and that his brother died during his stay. He said that he did not care if he gets killed and that the whole group had decided that they would stay on the boat until they die. “If you saw this condition, I swear to you, even for a microsecond no one can live this life in this country.”

While they were still on the boat, the group said they had not gotten any food for a week and that they used plastic bottles as toilets. The people in the videos speak Tigrinya, Afar, Arabic and English.

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