In Libya, Migrants Face Ordeals at Sea and in Jail

(SABRATHA, Libya) — The first time the young mother tried to flee to Europe on a rickety boat of fellow migrants from Africa, the overcrowded vessel quickly broke down and filled with water, forcing it to return to the Libyan coast. The second time, she was arrested and placed in a mosquito-infested Libyan detention center, where she has languished for months. She says she lives on bread and water, with only milk for her 8-month-old girl, and is beaten by guards with a hose if she complains. “They beat us like goats,” said Beauty Osaha, 23, who headed north from her native Nigeria in hopes of a better life. She said the guards at the facility in the ancient city of Sabratha search migrants’ bodies, including their private parts, looking for money or smuggled phones. Libya’s chaos in the two years following the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi has turned the country into a prime springboard for tens of thousands of migrants, mainly from Africa, trying to reach Europe in rickety, crowded boats. With police and the military in disarray, human smuggling has reached the level of a mafia-style organized industry in which Libya’s militias have gotten involved, according to activists and police. The danger of the sea journey became particularly clear this month, with three deadly wrecks of migrant boats coming from Libya. At least 365 people, mostly Eritreans fleeing repression in their homeland, died on Oct. 3 when their boat from Libya sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa — one of the worst verified migrant tragedies in the Mediterranean. Detention by Libyan militias is the migrants’ other potential ordeal. Activists say militias hold migrants in stores, schools and abandoned buildings as well as detention centers, abusing them and holding them hostage until they receive money from the migrants’ families. Then the migrants are freed, only to try again. “In these prisons, the principles of the Feb. 17 Revolution are being toppled down. The Libyan authorities must put an end to those pirates,” a Libyan rights group called…………

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