Thursday

12th Dec 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • 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.

EU anti-slavery mission in Libya at risk, UN says

Karmen Sakhr, who oversees the North Africa unit at the UN refugee agency, told MEPs that Niger may stop accepting people from Libya if EU states don't take in more refugees.

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.

Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres

A trend has emerged over the past few months where desperate people are paying to get locked up in Libyan detention centres to escape the conflict and with the hope they stand a better chance of getting resettled to Europe.

News in Brief

  1. Czechs protest against PM Babis over EU subsidy 'fraud'
  2. EU disbursed €2.7bn for Turkey refugees
  3. UK ports set to host EU border checks for Northern Ireland
  4. EU puts tech giants in crosshairs
  5. Faroe Islands under pressure to chose Huawei
  6. Hungary asked to apologise after council leak
  7. MEPs: Finnish budget proposal 'impossible to implement'
  8. EP committee supports 'Future of EU Conference'

Interview

EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration

Europe's obsession with migration from Africa means it risks losing out the continent's potential when it comes to trade, says the EU's ambassador to the African Union, Ranier Sabatucci. "Africa is a growing continent, it is the future," he says.

Feature

Malmo, a segregated city - separating fact from fiction

Despite the neighbourhood's beautiful name, the reputation of Rosengård (Rose Garden) does not so much evoke images of roses as headlines of crime and social challenges. This area of Malmö has been struggling with its notorious, mythical, image for years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Leaders to battle on climate target and money at summit
  2. Von der Leyen: 'Green Deal is our man-on-moon moment'
  3. North Atlantic mini states in geopolitical turbulence
  4. Survey marks EU optimism on eve of UK's Brexit election
  5. Six priorities for human rights
  6. European shipping's dirty secret
  7. Hungary quizzed over EU rules amid twitter row
  8. Spanish King meets party leaders to break deadlock

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us