Desperate messages on Messenger and WhatsApp.
-Help us. Help us. What will happen to us?
The messages are from one of Libya’s many overcrowded detention centres in Tripoli. A couple of month ago a friend of mine in Athen contacted me. She was very worried, because it had come to her knowledge that her brother was in a Libyan detentioncenter, and thet he was seriously ill. I got into contact with some of his inmates, who spoke English. Because of security I can not bring any names or pictures, but this is some of our conversation.
1400 people stopped into a large hangar. Only light they have seen for month is the artificial from neon tube in the hangars roof. Never any sun or a bit of fresh air.
-We are all sick. We lack the sun and air, one message says on my phone.
The food is poor and very little in the detentioncentre in Libya. There are days when they get nothing. On lucky days they get a bowl of beans for sharing between six men, in the morning maybe a loaf of bread. Drinking water is dirty. According to an article in the Irish Times, families have to send money for food for the intern, otherwise they will have nothing.
The few toilets and showers in the hangar are filthy. Toilets often stopped. Tuberculosis spreads rapidly in the overcrowded hangar, but there is no medical treatment.
-We cannot deal with that here in Libya, the doctor says according to my source. The very sick are moved to another room to die.
Pictures on my WhatsApp: A lot of people lie or sit in a big room. They have to sleep in shifts because of lack of space. Photos of such thin people that it evokes reminiscences of images from the concentration camps during the Second World War. Pictures of injured people. Large open wounds and filthy home-cooked dressings.
I am thinking of the kind of untreated inflammation that I once experienced during a journey far out in the bush in Africa. Inflammation so bad that you die.
There are pictures of stopped toilets and flooded showers. And a video of Libyan guards throwing tear gas into the hangar against the many people, who are unable to get away. I also hear the shots.
One day the fans in the ceiling do not work. Outside there are almost forty degrees.
You want to see how hot here is? On my phones video camera I see a lot of sweaty brown bodies.
Sometimes there are battles around the hangar. Libyan militias fighting against each other.
-It is fierce war here. We are afraid. Long break, then a new message.
-Constantly shooting and there are big tanks with petrol right next to our hangar. I receive pictures of bullet holes in the ceiling of the hangar.
And then they are moved. To a village far away out in the desert. The messages are fewer.
-We are in prison now, one of my sources tells me and the connection is interrupted.
FORGOTTEN IN THE DESERT
I am thinking how a lot of people just might be forgotten there out in the wilderness. It is EU policy. They can just quietly die out there in the desert of Libya. People who have fleed war and cruel dictaktors. Fleed prison and torture in their own country. They are not criminals. In Europe refugees from Eritrea get asyleum – if they manage to get to Europe. Now they can die in a prison in Libya.
Thousands has been sitting for many months in various prisons and detention centres in Libya. The hope of ever being evacuated out of the so-called failed state dies slowly. Therefore they cry for help. Do not forget us. We are human beings too. They shout out. Every day I can hear it. When the messages arrive.
It is all EU policy. To prevent refugees and migrants from setting out against Europe in rickety boats, we made an agreement with Libya. We pay lots of money to the deeply corrupt Libyan coast guard so that they hold back Africans. I think European officials have been in Libya to show them how to catch desperate Africans. Instead they are put in Libyan detention centres. Without the prospect of ever escaping. If they are not sold on a Libyan slave market as documented by the American tv station CNN, and as my sources in the detention centre fear most. They even know what the price of a slave like themselves are sold for on the slavemarket there.
Many of the financial migrants are returned to the country from which they came. But these who fled of political reasons, they can not just go back to their country. The Eritrean refugees are under protection of UNHCR. As evidence of UNHCR protection, I see images of paper patches with an UNHCR number quickly written with ballpoint pen.
Now you are a protected refugee. You are under our protection, the number says.
-But where are UNHCR? We never see them, a message says.
UNHCR’s work in Libya IS difficult.
One morning the Libyan guards leaves the hangar with 140 of the interned. They are put on a truck, and driven away. In the evening they are back in the hangar, a source write in a message.
A UNHCR staff working in Copenhagen tells me that it is almost impossible to evacuate people, even the most vulnerable, women and children. At the airport, the Libyans says that the plane will not depart today. Maybe tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.
Recently a 28-year-old man from Somalia committed suicide in one of the detention centers. He had just been told by UNHCR, that he had very few chances to be evacuated to a safe country, The Irish Times newspaper writes on the 25. October.
On the 17th October the UNHCR send a Tweet saying that 135 particularly vulnerable refugees were evacuated from one of Libya detention centres to a camp in Niger. The evacuees had spent many months in Libya’s Detention centres and was on arrival in Niger malnourished and sick.
Yesterday UNHCR in Libya send a Tweet saying that the Libyan coast guard had rescued 100 refugees and migrants of different nationalities from the Mediterranean Sea.
UNHCR was in place with food, water, dry clothes and medical care, the Tweet said. And the people were brought to one of the detentionscenters in Tripoli.
When will they get out again? Will they ever get out? The political situation does not seem to change – neither in Europe nor in Libya.
On the contrary, we are working in Europe and in Denmark for more numbers of such camps.