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Europe Complicit In Libyan Migrant Abuses, Human Rights Group Says


Amnesty International has made a striking charge. The organization says European governments have been complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants. Here's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: European governments stand accused of aiding in the abuse of refugees and migrants in a bid to prevent this exodus of people accessing Europe via Libya. Amnesty International points a finger at Europe, detailing how European Union funds support what it calls a sophisticated system of exploitation. Money finds its way into the hands of human traffickers, making Libya perilous territory for those crossing the Mediterranean to try to reach Europe's shores. Amnesty International's Libya researcher Marwa Mohamed describes their latest findings.

MARWA MOHAMED: What we're looking at is the collusion between the smugglers and Libyan coast guards. The European governments know that Libya is not a safe country. By providing this support while not providing any other alternatives, not conditioning any of this assistance on enhancing or improving the human rights situation in the country, then essentially they are complicit in what's going on.

QUIST-ARCTON: Libya's coast guard is partly funded by European Union money. Mohamed says European authorities are aware of the link between people traffickers, some Libyan coast guard officials and those who run the detention centers in Libya.

MOHAMED: In light of that, they still chose to support the Libyan coast guard through different agreements, through training, material support and technological support.

QUIST-ARCTON: Boats that have not paid a bribe are intercepted by the coast guard and returned to Libya, says Amnesty. Marwa Mohamed says passengers on those boats are dumped in old warehouses or abandoned factories and they face extortion.

MOHAMED: They are tortured for money. They are forced to call their family members at times under torture where their family will hear them crying so that they pay their ransom, essentially.

QUIST-ARCTON: Amnesty International says it believes it has enough evidence to take European Union governments to court. In response to Amnesty's report, an EU spokesperson says the situation in Libya is slightly better because of EU involvement. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.