Saturday

21st Apr 2018

Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant

  • Of the some 1,020 people sent to Niger from Libya, only 55 have been resettled elsewhere in Europe (Photo: © UNHCR/Louise Donovan)

Traumatised women arriving in Niger to then seek further refuge in Europe and elsewhere are demanding HIV testing after facing brutal abuse in Libyan detention centres.

"All the women that we evacuate from Libya, the first thing they ask arriving in Niamey airport is not a glass of water. It is HIV testing, that is what they are asking," said Vincent Cochetel, the UN refugee special envoy to the region.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Some 1,000 people evacuated from Libya are now in Niamey (Photo: Jean Rebiffe)

Speaking to an audience at a European Policy Centre event in Brussels on Thursday (15 March), Cochetel said most of them had been impregnated during their detention in Libya. He noted a baby, the first among the group of those evacuated, was born earlier this week in Niger as women seek to rebuild their lives.

But the fear of contracting the virus adds to the long list of documented horrors people stuck in Libyan detention centres have to endure.

Earlier this year, a team of officials from the UN, EU and African Union went to Tripoli to press authorities to release more people and stop the systematic criminalisation of migrants and refugees in the country.

"I have to say that the answers we got from the Libyan authorities was not very positive. We even had one senior official telling us that people are in detention for their protection," said Cochetel.

The move to evacuate the centres was made following CNN television images of migrants being sold off as slaves at public auctions for $400 a head.

Official figures estimate around 5,000 remain behind bars run by government centres, amid reports that security officials linked to those facilities are also plying the smuggling trade.

It is unclear how many are trapped in centres run by militias groups.

Niger had agreed to temporarily shelter people released from the Libyan detention centres under the conditions that they would then be resettled in Europe.

But the government in Niamey has suspended the programme, launched last November by a joint effort from the European Union, African Union, and the United Nations.

Of the some 1,020 people sent to Niger from Libya, only 55 have been resettled elsewhere in Europe.

"That is in three months, 55 departed. That is the best effort Europe can make. We can do better," noted Cochetel.

Some 161 are awaiting for departure to France, Sweden and Switzerland. Another 225 cases are pending decisions from European countries.

The slow pace of departures appears to be linked, in part, to the administrative bottlenecks within the UNHCR.

But Cochetel maintains such issues, like the difficulty of finding and hiring Eritrean interpreters, have since been ironed out.

"We had some processing challenges, they are fixed now. States have to move on the cases they have accepted," he said.

Those that do make it to Niger under the programme are placed in large houses throughout the city as part of an urban reception system where they are free to move around.

The UN agency had last December appealed for EU states to pledge 1,300 resettlement places. They almost doubled it.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU commissioner for migration, will be in Niger on Friday as part of a ministerial conference against migrant smuggling and human trafficking.

"We need to further step up resettlement efforts from Niger and member states should stand ready to resettle as soon as cases are referred to them," he said earlier this week.

Libya return demand triggers reintegration headaches

The UN migration agency (IOM) had planned to help return and reintegrate 5,000 people from Libya to their home countries, but ended up aiding 20,000 in 2017. The extra demand has piled on the pressure.

EU complicit in Libyan torture, says Amnesty

The EU and its members states have signed up to 'Faustian pact' with Libyan authorities in the their effort to prevent migrant and refugee boat departures towards Italy, says Amnesty International.

Interview

Spanish NGO boat bosses face jail for rescuing Libya refugees

Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms had its rescue boat seized by Italian authorities in Sicily earlier this month. Three employees have been accused of migrant trafficking and face up to 15 years in jail and huge fines.

EU mulls coercion to get refugee kids' fingerprints

EU policy and law makers are ironing out final details of a legislative reform on collecting the fingerprints of asylum seekers and refugees, known as Eurodac. The latest plan includes possibly using coercion against minors, which one MEP calls "violence".

Opinion

Calling time on European-Turkish strategic relations

With an Erdogan-Putin summit on Tuesday, joined by Iran on Wednesday, it is time for Europe to face facts - Turkey's ties with the West are no longer strategic. When Europe goes hither, Turkey deliberately goes thither.

EU mulls coercion to get refugee kids' fingerprints

EU policy and law makers are ironing out final details of a legislative reform on collecting the fingerprints of asylum seekers and refugees, known as Eurodac. The latest plan includes possibly using coercion against minors, which one MEP calls "violence".

News in Brief

  1. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  2. MEPs urge better protection for journalists
  3. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  4. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  5. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  6. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  7. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  8. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  2. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  3. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  4. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  5. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  6. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability
  7. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  8. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists