ALGIERS (Reuters) - Libya is failing to protect the rights of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and its decision to expel the United Nations refugee agency is likely to leave them more vulnerable, rights group Amnesty International said.
In a report detailing Libya’s record on human rights, Amnesty said migrants were given no protection from exploitation and abuse and that many were locked up in detention centres or sent home without their asylum requests being considered.
Libya’s authorities reject criticism of their treatment of migrants, saying Europe has unfairly burdened them with the responsibility of preventing vast numbers of illegal immigrants from crossing into the European Union.
“The Libyan authorities have failed to comply with their international obligations,” said the Amnesty report, which was released on Wednesday.
“Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants, particularly from Sub-Saharan African countries, live in constant fear.”
“Fear of being arrested and held indefinitely in overcrowded detention centres; fear of being exploited, beaten and abused; and fear of being forcibly returned to an uncertain future where they may face persecution or torture,” the report said.
U.N. refugee agency UNHCR has intervened frequently on behalf of migrants in Libya but the government this month said it had to leave because its presence was not covered by a convention with the United Nations.
Amnesty International said in a preface to the report that this was “a move likely to have a severe impact on refugees and asylum seekers.” Many sub-Saharan Africans come to Libya hoping to use it as a stepping stone to reach Europe.
The 133-page report also detailed what it said were other human rights abuses in Libya, an oil exporter which for decades was subject to international sanctions until its leader Muammar Gaddafi decided to reconcile with the West.
Amnesty said political activists face harassment and arrest, hundreds of prisoners are kept in prison after their sentences are over, the death penalty is widely used and political reform has stalled.
The report did though acknowledge some improvements. “The climate of fear and repression that prevailed in Libya for more than three decades is subsiding gradually,” it said.
In a show of clemency, Libya in March freed hundreds of former Islamist militants from prison. Last week, authorities said they were allowing nearly 300 prisoners from Niger to return home.