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Violence and chaos await migrants in Libya

FRANCE 24

Since the fall of the Gaddafi regime, Libya has been plagued by violence, with rival political factions and militias struggling for power. In the meantime, criminal groups have made the Libyan coastline one of the main stowaway points to Europe. But for the thousands of migrants fleeing wars, corrupt regimes and economic misery, this North African country is anything but a haven. Roméo Langlois reports from Tripoli.

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At a detention centre in Tripoli, nearly 20,000 African migrants are being held in cramped conditions and stifling heat.

Fleeing misery, dictatorships or civil war, they have spent weeks and months in the desert, often suffering random attacks by passers-by, as they made their way to Libya.

Most had dreamed of making the journey across the Mediterranean to a better life in Europe. Instead, they find themselves in jail after being caught by Libyan police.

“I'm from Somalia, I ran away from the Al Shabaab terrorists,” says a migrant named
Mohamed. “They killed our families, our sisters and brothers... And so I ran. That's why I'm here, to try and get to Italy... Anywhere but Somalia.”

Many detainees complain of shortages of food and water as well as mistreatment at the overcrowded detention centre, run by the rebel government in Tripoli.

“We've been here two months, we're tired, we don't have anything to eat,” says one migrant, who chooses not to give his name.

“They beat us every day, like slaves. Yesterday during the night someone broke his foot, another broke his arm.”

The prison’s director, Nasr Ahzam, admits that the facility is overwhelmed.

“It's a big problem. You have to feed all these people, to house them,” he says.

But he denies there is any problem with the mistreatment of prisoners.

“If someone complains of having been abused, he should come and see me and I'll discuss it with him. He should tell me how he was beaten and why. There's certainly a reason. Those who are well behaved have no reason to be mistreated.”

With Libya currently divided between two rival governments – an internationally recognised one in Tobruk and the rebel administration in Tripoli – migration has become a political lever to force Europe to talk with both governments and to take more responsibility.

“Our neighbours and the European Union have to cooperate with us,” says Mohammed Shaeiter, the Tripoli government’s minister of the interior.

“They have to see us as partners, without politicising the Libyan domestic issue, as some European countries do.”

Click on the video player above to see the full report.

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