Human Rights Concern – Eritrea has received several disturbing reports from Libya concerning the abusive treatment of Eritrean refugees in that country:
1) 76 Eritrean refugees in Libya are being used to clear land mines in Sirte, the home town of the late Gaddafi. The refugees are forced all day to clear land mines. These are not trained professionals. This is not humanitarian de-mining. This is a callous, inhuman treatment of humans as if they were disposable pieces of equipment. It amounts to nothing less than murder.
These refugees are not given access to UNHCR. It is inhuman that these refugees, who fled persecution in Eritrea, should suffer further harassment and risk being blown up while clearing the mines. The Libyans do not want to do it themselves, so they use refugees. This is barbaric and should be condemned.
2) Over 400 Eritrean refugees have been trafficked from Sudan to Libya and involuntarily held in Ajdabiya, near Banqazi. Over 120 refugees had paid a $1,700 ransom per person before their release; the remaining 400 are held inhumanly, and those who were released report that they were starving and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. This could not happen in such large numbers if the Libyan government took action against it, so it can only be assumed that they are complicit.
3) Eritrean refugees are also detained incommunicado and under harsh conditions at the following prisons:
Salma prison (near Tripoli) – 81refugees
Al-Khums (near Tripoli) – no numbers available
Al-Kufra – Over 300 refugees
Sabha – around 1,200 refugees
Zuwara – no numbers available
It is very sad to see what the so-called revolutionaries in Libya are doing to the refugees from Africa. We had hoped that they would empathise with the situation in Eritrea, and the plight of Eritrean refugees, as they themselves have suffered at the hands of Gaddafi. Instead, the Eritrean refugees are detained like criminals under harsh conditions. The UNHCR office in Tripoli is not notified of the presence of those refugees in Libya. Why not?
Libya is one of the signatories to the African Charter on Refugees and a member of the United Nations. And yet it flouts the most basic human rights requirements in its maltreatment of Eritreans.
We appeal to the international community to condemn these horrendous developments in Libya.
Elizabeth (Elsa) Chyrum
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea