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UN Report: Migrant Expulsions from Tunisia to Libya Lead to Extortion and Abuse

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louis Buyisiwe

Jun 12, 2024

UN reveals severe human rights abuses, forced labor, and extortion faced by migrants handed over by Tunisian authorities to Libya.

Migrant expulsions from Tunisia to Libya are leading to severe abuse, forced labor, and extortion, according to a confidential UN human rights briefing seen by Reuters. Tunisian border guards have been rounding up migrants and handing them over to Libyan counterparts, where they face dire conditions. The report, dated January 23, was based on interviews with former detainees and visual evidence of torture.

Tarek Lamloum, a Libyan human rights expert, confirmed such transfers occurred as recently as early May, involving about 2,000 migrants this year. The UN briefing, which has not been previously reported, highlighted how these collective expulsions and arbitrary detentions are exacerbating human rights abuses in Libya, including extortion by officials demanding thousands of dollars for migrant releases.

The European Union, which partners with Tunisia and Libya to curb Mediterranean migration, has allocated 800 million euros through 2024 for this effort. However, rights groups criticize this approach, arguing it fosters abuse and ignores root causes. The UN has documented crimes against humanity in some Libyan detention centers, which receive EU backing.

Migrants, predominantly from Palestine, Syria, Sudan, and South Sudan, face abysmal conditions in Libyan detention centers such as al-Assa and Bir al-Ghanam. Reports describe overcrowded, unsanitary facilities and extreme abuse, including torture and killings by border guards.

The UN briefing calls for a shift in migration and border management policies, emphasizing the need for Libya to decriminalize illegal entry and for international border management support to adhere to human rights standards. Neither Libyan nor Tunisian authorities have commented on the report.

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