Over 9000 South Sudanese migrants trapped in Libya

Over 9000 South Sudanese migrants trapped in Libya
A group of migrants from 20 African countries trapped in Libyan capital Tripoli (photo credit: United Nations)

More than 9000 South Sudanese migrants have been trapped and subjected to inhumane treatment in Libya after their dream to cross into Europe through the Mediterranean Sea turned into a nightmare.

The South Sudanese nationals are among an estimated 20,000 Africans desperately demanding evacuation from Gargaresh, an area infamous for stocking migrants in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

The representative of Refugees in Libya, a non-profit formed to voice the grievances of trapped migrants told The City Review from Tripoli that there was a need for urgent intervention by African leaders to rescue the situation.  

“An estimated number of 20 thousand refugees and migrants living in Tripoli have been greatly affected by these developments which erupted on the 1st of October this year,” the source told The City Review in a WhatsApp interview.

“There are few Ugandans here estimated at 1000 with South Sudanese exceeding 9000,” the representative added.

The source who declined to name due to fear of reprisals said African nationals from 20 countries, including all East African countries, were bundled up and transported from one jungle to next as authorities unleash terror.

 Other affected countries include Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, DR Congo, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Senegal, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Togo, and The Gambia.

“So far these are the African communities who have been affected by these developments that targeted African immigrants,” the source said, adding in a follow-up interview that the situation was not getting better as many have been killed.

“Hundreds have been wounded under this process, dozens killed. Now refugees and asylum seekers are demanding an immediate evacuation from the country,” the source decried.

What happened

According to reports from reliable sources, the Libyan authorities waged an operation to wipe out criminals from the capital. In what appeared to be a pre-planned operation, migrants were caught in the net.

On October 1, one migrant was killed and at least 15 others injured when Libyan security authorities, carried out raids on houses and temporary makeshift shelters in Gargaresh, an area of Tripoli heavily populated by migrants and asylum-seekers as reported by the United Nations Mission in Libya.

On Monday this week, SeaWatch International, an organization that helps rescue migrants and asylum seekers from the Mediterranean reported that six people were shot dead by the Libyan detention guards after 17 bodies were washed ashore near Zawiya on Wednesday last week.

African Union silent

At the time of reporting, there was no response from the African Union despite a letter submitted by the group of African migrants appealing for evacuation from Tripoli.

In the letter shared with The City Review and dated 7th October, the group accused the African Union of being docile in time their action is needed.

“The African Union has failed to acknowledge that the massive inflow of migrants to Libya, then Europe, is arising because of their failures to address African problems. The youth had consequently lacked opportunities to explore and develop themselves, educate themselves and nourish themselves,” part of the letter read.

“We call upon the African Union and its member states to come to our aid, to call on the Libyan government to comply with international laws applicable in Africa and bring perpetrators to justice. Including safe passage and humanitarian evacuation flights out of Libya are in effect,” it added.

EU implicated

Amid the grand-scale suffering of African migrants, civil rights activists have poured anger at the European Union accusing the bloc of funding the Libyan authorities to maintain their grip of abuse against their fellow Africans.

“Libyan authorities are being funded by the European Union to do exactly this – stop refugees (at ANY cost) from reaching Europe,” wrote Vanessa Tsehaye, a prominent human rights campaigner from Amnesty International in the Horn of Africa.

Tsehaye singlehandedly called out Yiva Johnson, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs to “immediately stop the funding, call on Libya to stop this behaviour and help evacuate refugees from Libya!”

In 2017, the EU and Libyan authorities signed an agreement ensuring the closure of the Central Mediterranean migration route to keep migrants, especially from Africa, out of Europe.