• UNHCR in Libya Part 1 : From standing #WithRefugees to standing #WithStates ?

    October 3rd is a day upon which the UNHCR “remember and commemorate all the victims of immigration and promote awareness-raising and solidarity initiatives.”

    With that very sentiment in mind, Euronews has undertaken an investigation into the UNHCR’s operation in Libya, where tens of thousands of migrants live in detainment camps, hoping to make it to Europe.

    We uncover the extent of neglect in terms of care that can be found where migrants wait to be processed. We ask why the UN’s humanitarian agency cannot have the required access in Libya when the mother organisation - The United Nations - is working with the Tripoli-based government. We ask why there is a severe lack of transparency surrounding the agency’s operation and we talk to some of the migrants involved in the process and allow them to tell their stories.


    https://www.euronews.com/2019/10/02/unhcr-in-libya-part-1-from-standing-withrefugees-to-standing-withstates
    #Libye #HCR #UNCHR #responsabilité #camps_de_réfugiés #réfugiés #asile #migrations #ONU #nations_unies #transparence #droits_humains #droits_fondamentaux #réinstallation #inefficacité #argent #financement #aide_humanitaire #indépendance

    ping @isskein @karine4 @reka

    • UNHCR in Libya Part 2 : Migrants in detention centres : ’Why does UNHCR want to keep us in prison ?’

      In this, the second part of our four-part investigation into the UNHCR’s operation in Libya, we talk to those migrants actually involved in the registration and detainment process. They tell Euronews their stories.

      Despite increased EU funding to the Libyan coastguard, and an Italian memorandum of understanding with the DCIM (the body responsible for running migrant detention centres) no effective provision has been made by the EU to implement migrants’ human rights and living conditions in Libya.

      The migrant experience in the embattled North African nation is deteriorating. Many people in that position who spoke to Euronews have reported abuses after being thrown into detention centres with the hope of being registered by UNHCR. Testimonies include instances of torture, rape and extortion at the hands of local militias and when this leads to an attempt to cross the Mediterranean sea, reports also detail how they have been intercepted by the Libyan coastguards and automatically re-incarcerated into the detention centres.

      “It has become an infinite, terrible circle from which there is no way out”, Julien Raickman, head of the MSF-France’s Libyan operation, told The Times.

      UNHCR’s main mission in Libya is to register migrants and find a solution to get them out of the country. However, as Raickman adds, “the resettlement procedure is totally blocked”.


      https://www.euronews.com/2019/10/02/unhcr-in-libya-part-2-migrants-in-detention-centres-why-does-unhcr-want-to
      #centres_de_détention #détention #Qasr_Bin_Gashir #Zintan #Az-Zāwiyah #Abu_Salim ##Az-Zawiyah

    • UNHCR in Libya Part 3: Former staffer blows whistle on favouritism and ’culture of impunity’

      Libya’s United Nations Refugee Agency has been branded “the worst in the region” by a former staff member who has alleged corruption, mismanagement and incompetence in its dealings with tens of thousands of vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers.

      The former staff member, who spoke to Euronews on condition of anonymity, painted an image of an agency overstretched and out of its depth, with asylum seekers left homeless, deprived of medical care and in legal limbo in an increasingly violent and unstable Libya.

      Migrants and refugees on the ground told Euronews that they had even bribed their way into Libya’s notorious detention centres in an effort to speed up their asylum claims. There they face exploitation at the hands of militia groups, which run the centres in all but name.

      The former staff member described a chaotic infrastructure at UNHCR, where he worked for several years, with asylum seekers registered under incorrect nationalities and others forced to wait for months to hear the status of their applications.

      Meanwhile, questions about UNHCR in Libya have stretched to procurement. An internal audit found that the agency had purchased laptop computers at inflated prices (eight laptops for just under $50,000) and used two travel agents to purchase almost $200,000 worth of flight tickets. The audit also notes that “no competitive bidding was conducted for the travel services” (sect. D of OIOS report 2019/007).
      Medical care

      Euronews has spoken to dozens of asylum seekers on the ground in Libya, including a man suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. Asyas, 30, was discharged from the hospital by a UN medical partner, the International Medical Corps (IMC), and was now living in a private home in Tripoli.

      “I’m just waiting to die,” he told us.

      A medical source in Tripoli said that the hospitalisation of migrants and refugees - especially those cases with tuberculosis - is expensive, and some public hospitals lack the equipment to correctly diagnose the cases.

      As a result, NGOs have to find a balance between paying very high bills to private hospitals or discharging patients too early, the source concludes.

      The IMC told Euronews it cannot comment on the case.

      The feeling on the streets is one of abandonment by international institutions. Asylum seekers in urban areas believe that the UN agency will be there to help them find accommodation for example but the UNHCR are not obligated to do so.

      In one case, a group of Sudanese refugees – including expectant mothers and newborn babies - have been living for several months in an abandoned warehouse in an area of Tripoli known as al-Riyadiya.

      The group were since evicted from the warehouse and are now sleeping in front the UNHCR community day centre, waiting to be moved to safer housing.

      Commenting on the experiences Euronews uncovered, a spokesperson for the UNHCR, Charlie Yaxley, said: “Life for many refugees is extremely difficult and what we can do is at times very limited.”
      Libya in the eye of the storm

      Libya has been at the forefront of the migrant crisis and is the embarkation point for many boats that attempt to cross the Mediterranean to Italy.

      Libya’s lawlessness since the 2011 war that followed the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi has seen the rise of numerous militia groups, all competing for a piece of the lucrative migrant trade.

      A large part of that trade is the operation of detention centres, officially run by the government but effectively controlled by militia groups. Asylum seekers detained in Libya are held at the centres, where they are often subject to abuse and violence.

      The conditions at detention centres has got so bad that the UNHCR prioritise the processing of refugees and migrants that are held in them - as they are considered among the most vulnerable. This has led to asylum seekers actually bribing their way into centres, sources say.

      In December, migrants and refugees detained in Khoms Suq al-Khamis started a hunger strike to persuade UNHCR to visit the centre and register them in the hope that this might stop them from being sold and disappeared.

      Amina, a Somali refugee now in Triq al-Sikka facility in Tripoli confirmed to Euronews that she paid money to be “accepted into detention and have a better chance to be registered and evacuated".

      The former UN staff member detailed one case where he claims a pregnant rape victim had opted to return to a detention centre in order to be considered for evacuation.

      At the Abu Salim detention centre, Eritrean refugees have been begging the detention centre manager to admit them, with the sole hope of being evacuated.

      Others are paying to get themselves in to the UNHCR’s Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) - managed by the Libyan Ministry of Interior, UNHCR and UNHCR’s partner LibAid - in Tripoli, where refugees are normally hosted until their transfer to another state is confirmed.

      There, one refugee awaiting evacuation told Euronews: “The guards who are working at the gate, brought inside Somalian and Eritrean women; they paid 2000 dinars (around 430€) each. We told this to UNHCR, and they asked us not to tell anyone”.

      Commenting on the allegations, Yaxley said: “UNHCR takes any claims of misconduct very seriously. Any claim that is found to be valid following an investigation is followed by a zero tolerance approach. We strongly encourage any victims to directly contact our Inspector General’s Office.”.
      Lack of information

      Aside from bribery, the former employee said that the fate of individual asylum seekers and their families in Libya largely relies on luck.

      “It’s up to the office,” the source said.

      “At the beginning of 2019, the UNHCR registered a woman from Ivory Coast (which is not among the 9 nationalities that are prioritised according to Cochetel), only because there was a recommendation letter from a higher rank.

      “Sometimes you may wait months to register a case because no one will give you approval; there are cases of favouritism and a lazy attitude. All registration processes are unclear.”

      Many refugees and asylum seekers in Tripoli complained to Euronews about the lack of information available to them about their personal case. The former employee said that this is part of a strategy at the agency in order to avoid having to deal with the huge amount of admin involved.

      “It’s a general attitude not to answer refugees and keep them blind to avoid more requests. In Tripoli, refugees or asylum seekers are left without a clue. They don’t know if they are accepted or rejected.

      “They receive very little information about their file and most of the time, no proper update about the process, or in case they have to appeal if their request has been rejected.”

      The source said that since September 2017 there is no system in place to appeal against rejection on their refugee status, and asylum seekers don’t know they have the right to appeal the decision within 30 days.

      One family from Nigeria, now detained in Az-Zāwiyah detention centre, described their experience.

      “The first time we managed to meet UNHCR was secretly in Tarik Al Matar centre in July 2018. Since that time UNHCR is refusing to register us. When we try to ask about our cases they kept telling us later, next time, next time,” the father said.

      “Sometimes they avoid us totally. Once, UNHCR has even advised us to return home. My youngest girl has been born in detention and the eldest have some traumatic effects due to a whole lot of horrible stuff they’ve experienced.”

      Meanwhile the situation in Libya is only likely to get worse, with a bottleneck in some states like Niger slowing down the evacuation plan from Libya.

      There are currently 1,174 evacuees from Libya staying in Niger, including 192 evacuated unaccompanied children, according to UNHCR. With the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) at full capacity, many cases are still pending a decision.

      “The Government of Niger has generously offered additional space for up to 1,500 refugees in the Emergency Transit Mechanism run by UNHCR in Niamey with financial support from the European Union,” writes Cochetel in May 2018.

      Mistakes

      To make the situation worse, according to the former employee, many mistakes have been made including nationalities wrongly assigned to individuals.

      “UNHCR was registering Chadians as Sudanese, or Ethiopians as Eritreans. The UNHCR staff in Libya was not qualified to properly understand the situation,” the source said.

      Commenting on that claim, Yaxley said: “UNHCR staff are selected through the same processes as in all other operations worldwide, following human resources rules. There are over 100 national staff working in Libya. UNHCR does not work with external contractors.”

      The aforementioned concentration on nine specified nationalities was put in place in order to keep numbers down, the former staff member said.

      Libya’s Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior for Migration, Mohammed Al-Shibani, said that on the contrary the Libyan government is not refusing to register other nationalities. “The nationalities are determined by the UN not by us,” he said.

      Procurement

      On issues with procurement, the former staff member points Euronews at the internal UN audit of the operations in Libya, which found that UNHCR designated procurements to 12 partners worth $4.7 million and $4.0 million in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

      But the mission “did not conduct any cost-benefit analysis”, opting instead for direct procurement “despite the significant differences between official and market exchange rates.

      In 2017 and 2018, “the mission designated procurement exceeding $100,000 to three partners without them being pre-qualified by the Procurement Service at headquarters”. A lack of procurement plans resulted in ’’unnecessary and higher” costs.

      For example, the audit found a transaction for eight laptops with total expenditure of $47,067 (equivalent to a unit cost per laptop of $5,883). Moreover, flight tickets amounting to $128,000 and $66,000 during 2017 and 2018 were bought from two different travel agencies without any clear process for selection, as mentioned in the audit and confirmed by a former UN source.

      “The mission was unable to demonstrate it used its resources effectively and efficiently in providing for the essential needs of persons of concern. The lack of reporting also increased UNHCR’s reputational risk”, reads the audit.

      https://www.euronews.com/2019/10/03/unhcr-in-libya-part-3-former-staffer-blows-whistle-on-favouritism-and-cult
      #impunité

    • UNHCR in Libya Part 4: The detention centres - the map and the stories

      When NGO workers arrived at the Janzoor detention centre in Libya in October 2018 to collect 11 unaccompanied minors due to be returned to their country of origin, they were shocked to find that the young people had completely disappeared.

      The failed asylum seekers were registered and ready to go, a staff member at the International Organisation of Migration, who wished to remain anonymous, told Euronews. It took six months to find out what had happened to the group.

      “They were sold and their families were asked for ransom”, the former staff member said.

      In February 2019, the Libyan government revealed that there were 23 detention centres operating in Libya, holding over 5,000 asylum seekers. While they are officially run by the government, in reality it is Libya’s complex patchwork of militias that are in control.

      Even those ostensibly run by Libya’s Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM) are effectively under the control of whichever armed group controls the neighbourhood where a centre is located.
      Rule of militias

      Militias, also known as “katibas”, are de-facto in control of the gates of the centres and the management. In many cases, migrants and refugees are under arrest in locations which are not considered official detention facilities, but “holding places” for investigation.

      By correct protocol, they should be sent to proper detention facilities, but in reality procedures are seldom respected and asylum seekers are detained with no legal review or rights.

      For many migrants and refugees, the ordeal begins at sea.

      According to the Libyan coast guard, from January to August 2019, nearly 6,000 people were intercepted and brought back to Libya.

      On September 19, a man from Sudan died after being shot in the stomach hours after being returned to shore.

      The IOM, whose staff witnessed the attack, said it occurred at Abusitta disembarkation point in Tripoli, when 103 people that had been returned to shore were resisting being sent back to detention centres.

      IOM staff who were on the scene, reported that armed men began shooting in the air when several migrants tried to run away from their guards.

      “The death is a stark reminder of the grim conditions faced by migrants picked up by the Coast Guard after paying smugglers to take them to Europe, only to find themselves put into detention centres” said IOM Spokesperson Leonard Doyle.

      With conflict escalating in Tripoli and many detention centres located on the frontline, the majority of the people intercepted by Libyan coast guards are brought to al-Khoms, a coastal city 120km east of the Libyan capital.

      Tortured, sold, and released

      According to UN sources, guards at the city’s two detention facilities - al-Khoms and Souq al-Khamis - have either facilitated access to the militias or were afraid to deny them access.

      “Let me be honest with you, I don’t trust anyone in al-Khoms centre,” a former DCIM official told Euronews.

      “The detention centre has been officially closed by the DCIM but the militia there do whatever they want and they don’t respect the orders given by the Ministry of Interior.

      “People have been tortured, sold and released after paying money. The management and the militia in al-Khoms, they act independently from the government”.

      Last June, during the protection sector coordination meeting in Tripoli, UN agencies and international organisations raised the question of people disappearing on a daily basis.

      “In one week at least 100 detainees disappeared and despite the closure of the centre, the Libyan coast guard continued to bring refugees to al-Khoms detention centre” according to a note of the meeting seen by Euronews.

      The head of an international organisation present at the meeting, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “Many organisations have been turning their back on the situation, as they were not visiting the centre anymore.

      “19 people from Eritrea were at risk, including young ladies between 14 and 19 years old”.

      During a press briefing last June, the spokesman for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, reported that women held in detention have been sold into sexual exploitation.

      David, a migrant who had been detained in Misrata detention centre was able to get out after transiting from a safe house in al-Khoms. He said that centre staff “had been extorting money from detainees for months.

      “I didn’t have a choice as the UN refused to register me because I come from Central African Republic and my nationality is not among the one recognised by UNHCR.”

      Detention centres are still open

      In August 2019, Libyan authorities in Tripoli confirmed the shutdown of three detention centres in Misrata, Khoms and Tajoura, but DCIM officers and migrants held in detention confirmed to Euronews that the centres are still open.

      While it is impossible to independently verify the current status of the facilities - as as the Ministry of Interior in Tripoli does not authorise access to them - Euronews was able to speak on the phone with detainees.

      “Just bring a letter with the authorisation from the Ministry of Interior and I will let you enter,” said one commander from Tajoura on the phone, confirming that the centre was still running.

      Another source at the DCIM in Tripoli mentioned that Tajoura was still running and the militia was mainly arresting people from street to fill the hangars again.

      The decision to close the Az-Zāwiyah detention centre - mentioned in PART 1 and 2 - was taken in April 2018 by former head of DCIM Colonel Mohamed Besher. But the centre has instead been transformed into an arrest and investigation centre.

      Located at the Az-Zāwiyah Refinery, which is secured by Al-Nasser brigade since 2011, it is close to the base of the Az-Zāwiyah coastguard

      Both the commander of the Libyan Coast Guard’s Unit and the head of Al-Nasr brigade are sanctioned by UN and the United States for alleged involvement in human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

      Mohammed Kushlaf is working in cooperation with “Osama” (➡️ SEE PART 2), who is in charge of the detention facility. His name appears 67 times in the recent investigation conducted by Italian prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio.

      ‘Inhumane conditions’

      The investigation had “confirmed the inhumane conditions” endured by many migrants and “the need to act, at an international level, to protect their most basic human rights.”

      The Government of National Accord has supported the UN sanctions and issued public statements of condemnation against the trafficking and smuggling of migrants.

      The Libyan prosecutor has also issued an order to suspend the commander of the Libyan Coast Guard and bring him into custody for investigations, although this was never implemented, confirmed a Libyan lawyer working at the Ministry of Justice.

      Sources at the DCIM mentioned that between September 2018 and April 2019 - when the Libyan National Army (LNA) troops guided by the general Khalifa Haftar seized Tripoli’s southern suburbs – many detention centres were located near the clashes.

      Salaheddin, Ain Zara, Qasr Bin Ghashir and Tariq Al Matar detention centres have been closed because of the conflict.

      As a result, large groups of refugees and migrants have been displaced or transferred to other locations. A DCIM officer in Tripoli mentioned that “The Tariq Al Matar centre was in the middle of the clashes and many refugees left to find safety in other areas after a few people were injured. A group was transferred to Ain Zara and another to Janzour detention centre, some 20 kilometres southwest of Tripoli’s centre.”

      Migrants being recruited to help militia in Libya’s civil war

      In September and several times in December and January, refugees say they were forced to move and pack weapons as fighting between rival armed groups in the capital of Tripoli flared up.

      They also engaged directly with local militia, from the Tripoli suburb of Tarhouna, that was controlling Qasr Bin Ghashir detention centre at the time.

      “No one was fighting on the front but they would ask us to open and close the gate and move and pack weapons”, said Musa, a Sudanese refugee who left Qasr Bin Ghashir in April following the attack.

      On October 2, Abdalmajed Adam, a refugee from South Sudan was also injured by a random bullet on his shoulder and was taken to a military hospital,” adds Musa.

      The militia who is controlling the area where Abu Salim detention centre is located is known as Ghaniwa and is aligned to the GNA.

      The group has been asking refugees, especially Sudanese – as they speak Arabic - to follow them to the frontline.

      “Last August they bought us to Wadi Al-Rabea in southern Tripoli, and asked us to load weapons. I was one of them. They took five of us from the centre,” said Amir, a Sudanese asylum seeker who is detained in Abu Salim.

      A former DCIM officer confirmed that in June 2018, the head of Abu Salim DCIM, Mohamed al-Mashay (aka Abu Azza), was killed by an armed group following internal disputes over power.

      The Qasr Bin Ghashir detention centre, in which 700 people were locked up, was attacked on April 23. Video and photographic evidence shows refugees and migrants trapped in detention having incurred gunshot wounds.

      Multiple reports suggested several deaths and at least 12 people injured. A former DCIM officer mentioned that behind the attack there was a dispute over the control of the territory: it is a very strategic point being the main road to enter to Tripoli.


      https://www.euronews.com/2019/10/03/unhcr-in-libya-part-4-the-detention-centres-the-map-and-the-stories

      #torture #traite_d'êtres_humains #cartographie #visualisation #localisation