EU and Libya 'cooperate' to block African migrants: Amnesty
Amnesty International accused Libya and the European Union on Tuesday of cooperating to prevent migrants from Africa from reaching Europe.
Amnesty alleged in a report that the EU was ignoring Tripoli's human rights record in striking a deal to work together to tighten immigration controls.
The London-based group said asylum seekers and emigrants, especially from Africa, face torture and indefinite detention in Libya as they try to travel into Mediterranean Europe.
"Moreover, many are in fear of being returned to their countries of origin, with no regard to the real risk of persecution they face there," said Malcolm Smart, director of the group's Middle East and North Africa Programme.
Amnesty highlighted Somalia as a country whose people leave in their thousands every year to attempt a dangerous journey through countries such as Libya to flee the conflict that has ravaged their nation since 1991.
"Asylum-seekers and refugees in Libya have nowhere to turn for help, and have become even more vulnerable since the Libyan authorities ordered UNHCR to suspend its activities last June," said Smart.
"The very least that the Libyan authorities must do is protect those fleeing persecution and conflict from arrest, violence and abuse, and ensure they are not returned to places where they face a real risk of persecution or serious harm."
Farah Anam, a Somali woman who arrived in Malta in July this year via Libya, told Amnesty: "It is better to die in the sea than return to Libya."
In October, the European Commission signed a deal with the Libyan authorities over the "management of migration flows" and border controls until 2013, under which the EU will pay Libya 50 million euros (67 million dollars).
"EU-Libya cooperation needs to have human rights and responsibility-sharing at its core -- the founding principles of international protection," said Smart.
"The EU and its member states must not turn a blind eye to continuing human rights violations in Libya, when seeking Libya's cooperation in order to stem the flow of people arriving in the EU from Africa."
© 2010 AFP