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African refugees 'subjected to sexual slavery' in Libya

Libya is home to some 250,000 refugees and migrants [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 July, 2016

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A report published this week by Amnesty International has documented 'horrors' inflicted on refugees and migrants by traffickers and extremists in Libya.

An international rights group published "horrifying" accounts of sexual slavery of migrants and exploitation in Libya.

Amnesty International collected the testimonies of 90 migrants, including 15 women, interviewed in reception centres in Italy and Sicily after escaping Libya in recent months.

The women said that sexual abuse is so widespread that some women take contraceptives before their sea crossing.

"From being abducted, incarcerated underground for months and sexually abused by members of armed groups, to being beaten, exploited or shot at by people smugglers, traffickers or criminal gangs – refugees and migrants have described in harrowing detail the horrors they were forced to endure in Libya," said Amnesty's Magdelena Mughrabi.

Libya is home to some 250,000 refugees and migrants.

The UN refugee agency estimates that since April 19 last year, 4,937 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Europe.

Since the 2011 uprising, people smuggling has become a lucrative business and all parties involved, including coast guards, are exhorting migrants for money.

The migrants and refugees spoke about people who were killed by smugglers or who died from thirst or starvation. Some were shot or electrocuted and in one case, a disabled migrant was dumped in the desert by people smugglers.

"They had no heart," said a 20-year-old Eritrean named as Saleh, who entered Libya in October.

Women, in particular, are at risk of rape and sexual exploitation.

"Their experiences paint a terrifying picture of the conditions many of those who come to Europe are so desperate to escape," said Mughrabi.

A 22-year-old Eritrean woman identified as Ramya said that she was raped more than once while in captivity in a remote area near the town of Ajdabiya, in eastern Libya.

"When you have a gun pointed at your head, you don't really have a choice," she said.

Another woman described how one migrant woman was gang-raped by people smugglers when she failed to pay her smuggling fees.

In one of the most striking incidents, Amnesty cited a 21-year-old Eritrean woman identified as Amal who said she was among a group of 11 Christian women from Eritrea who were abducted by Islamic State [IS] militants in July 2015.

They were kept in underground detention for nine months, forced to convert to Islam and used as sex slaves.

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