The United Nations has described the European Union’s operation to patrol the coast of Libya as “inhuman”.
This strong criticism by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, shows a remarkable split between the two international organisations most involved in the reconstruction of Libya. In September, the UN recorded 7,000 migrants being held in camps, but as a result of the EU-backed clampdown, during which thousands of migrants were captured in the major trafficking hub of Sabratha, the figure has increased to 20,000 detainees.
At the beginning of November, UN human rights monitors inspected four migrant holding centres and were “shocked by what they witnessed”. Thousands of emaciated and traumatised men, women and children were piled on top of one another, locked up in hangars with no access to the most basic necessities, and stripped of their human dignity. The Commissioner said: “We cannot be a silent witness to modern day slavery, rape and other sexual violence and unlawful killings in the name of managing migration and preventing desperate and traumatised people from reaching Europe’s shores”.
Chapter 6 of Belfast to Benghazi explains how the UN was given the lead for reconstruction in Libya, but the EU did its own thing in 2012.