UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) --
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) on
Tuesday warned that hundreds of migrants are being held under “slave
market” conditions in North Africa, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric
told reporters here.
“Describing the situation as ‘dire,’ the agency reported that
hundreds of Sub-Saharan migrants bound for Libya are being sold and
bought by Libyans with the support of Ghanaians and Nigerians who
work for them,” Dujarric said at a daily news briefing here.
Over the past week, the agency has also learned of several cases in
which migrants have been kidnapped in exchange for ransom, the
“The agency is raising awareness across Africa of these dangers by
highlighting testimonies from migrants on local radio stations and
social media,” he said.
Operations officers with IOM’s office in Niger reported on the
rescue of a Senegalese migrant who this week was returning to his
home after being held captive for months.
According to the young man’s testimony, while trying to travel north
through the Sahara, he arrived in Agadez, Niger, where he was told
he would have to pay about 320 U.S. dollars to continue north,
trafficker provided him with accommodation until the day of his
departure, which was to be by pick-up truck.
When his pick-up reached Sabha in southwestern Libya, the driver
insisted that he hadn’t been paid by the trafficker, and that he was
transporting the migrants to a parking area where the young man
witnessed a slave market taking place.
“The latest reports of ‘slave markets’ for migrants can be added to
a long list of outrages (in Libya),” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s
head of operation and emergencies. “The situation is dire. The more
IOM engages inside Libya, the more we learn that it is a vale of
tears for all too many migrants.”
Abdiker said that in recent months IOM staff in Libya had gained
access to several detention centers, where they are trying to
“What we know is that migrants who fall into the hands of smugglers
face systematic malnutrition, sexual abuse and even murder,” he
said. “Last year we learned 14 migrants died in a single month in
one of those locations, just from disease and malnutrition. We are
hearing about mass graves in the desert.”
He said so far this year, the Libyan Coast Guard and others have
found 171 bodies washed up on Mediterranean shores, from migrant
voyages that foundered off shore. The Coast Guard has also rescued
thousands more, he added.
“Migrants who go to Libya while trying to get to Europe, have no
idea of the torture archipelago that awaits them just over the
border,” said Leonard Doyle, chief IOM spokesman in Geneva. “There
they become commodities to be bought, sold and discarded when they
have no more value.”
Many describe being sold “in squares or garages” by locals in the
southwestern Libyan town of Sabha, or by the drivers who trafficked
them across the Sahara desert.
“To get the message out across Africa about the dangers, we are
recording the testimonies of migrants who have suffered and are
spreading them across social media and on local FM radio,” Doyle
said. “Tragically, the most credible messengers are migrants
returning home with IOM help. Too often they are broken, brutalized
and have been abused, often sexually. Their voices carry more weight
than anyone else’s.”
Italian lawmakers approve new
measures to manage migration flows
ROME (Xinhua) --
The Italian parliament on Wednesday gave final approval to a package
of measures to better manage the inflows of migrants and asylum
seekers in the country.
The provision were already approved by Prime Minister Paolo
Gentiloni’s cabinet with a decree in February, but needed
parliamentary approval within 60 days.
The lower house passed it with 240 votes in favor and 176 votes
On Tuesday, the cabinet called and won a confidence vote on the
Key measures in the package include boosting repatriation of illegal
migrants, and shortening the average proceeding time for those who
submit a request of asylum.
New permanent repatriation centers will be set up across the
country, one in every Italian region, and their capacity should not
exceed 150 available places each, Italian Interior Minister Marco
Minniti said in February.
Overall, the facilities will be able to host a total 1,600 migrants
pending repatriation, and would be located near major transport
infrastructures and, if possible, outside cities.
Another key pillar of the package concerns the length of asylum
request proceedings. According to interior ministry’s estimates, it
currently takes Italian authorities two years to give a definite
response to an asylum application, which was considered a long
Three provisions were introduced to speed up such procedures:
firstly, it will be cancelled one of the two degrees in the Italian
court system to which asylum seekers can currently appeal, in the
case that their request is turned down.
But the right to appeal to Italy’s Court of Cassation will be
reserved for the applicants in the case of rejection.
Secondly, asylum committees assessing all requests will be
strengthened by recruiting 250 extra experts in order to alleviate
Thirdly, some 26 sections specialized in immigration, international
protection, and free movement of European Union’s (EU) citizens will
be created in about 14 Italian courts.
Another measure allows asylum seekers waiting for a reply to their
requests to be involved by Italian municipalities in “socially
useful” jobs, such as maintenance of public spaces, or volunteer
work with local charities.
This practice is already in place in some Italian cities, and would
aim at helping asylum seekers better integrate into the Italian
society, according to the authorities.
But the new measures would not apply to unaccompanied minor
migrants. In fact, a specific law has recently been approved,
ensuring them a comprehensive protection, and the prohibition of
turning them down at the border and of repatriating them.
Italy has taken in a large majority of the migration flows coming
from North Africa to Europe through the Mediterranean since last
year. It registered a record of 181,436 arrivals in 2016, up 17.9
percent and 6.66 percent over 2015 and 2014 respectively.
Some 25,846 children and adolescents travelled alone to the country
last year, more than twice the number registered in 2015.
Regarding asylum seekers, Italy received 123,600 requests in 2016
against 83,900 in 2015, which marked a 47 percent increase.
Some 91,000 of those requests have been examined overall, with about
54,000 rejected, according to the interior ministry.