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European governments could be taken to court over allegations of complicity in the torture of migrants and refugees in Libya, Amnesty International warned yesterday.
A damning report from the human rights group claims that EU cash is directed to authorities working with militias and people smugglers in an attempt to stem migration from the north African country.
It claims that the EU is actively supporting a “system of abuse and exploitation” of migrants and refugees in Libya resulting in mass arbitrary and indefinite detention.
Libya, which has remained lawless since Nato-backed forces overthrew former Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi in October 2011, is the main route for migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe from Africa.
To prevent refugees using this route, the EU provides ships, money and training to the Libyan coastguard (LCG) which intercepts boats attempting to cross the Mediterranean and takes those on board to detention centres in Libya.
However, Amnesty said that the coastguard is working with criminal gangs and people smugglers with the knowledge of EU officials.
In its report titled Libya's Dark Web of Collusion, Amnesty says that EU officials “cannot plausibly claim to be unaware” of the human rights abuses carried out by the coastguard or its collusion with smugglers.”
It continues: “Migrants and refugees are caught in a soul-destroying cycle of exploitation to which collusion between guards, smugglers and the LCG consigns them.
“Guards at the detention centres torture them to extort money. If they are able to pay they are released. They can also be passed onto smugglers who can secure their departure from Libya in co-operation with the LCG.
“Agreements between the LCG and smugglers are signalled by markings on boats that allow them to pass through Libyan waters without interception and the Coast Guard has also been known to escort boats out to international waters.”
Amnesty estimates that 20,000 people are held in detention centres across Libya and the group says it has evidence that detainees were subjected to “torture, forced labour, extortion and unlawful killings” at the hands of authorities, traffickers, and militias.
Protests erupted in European cities last month following the release of video footage showing migrants being sold at a Libyan slave market.
The group said it had compiled enough evidence to take EU governments to court.
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