Libya is a “market of human beings”: New Frame

As the war in Ukraine rages on, the European Union and the rest of the world are witnessing the largest influx of refugees into Europe since World War II.

The majority of the more than 5.2 million people who have fled Ukraine are women and children, as Russia continues to indiscriminately target residential areas, including hospitals and apartment buildings. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that an additional 7.1 million people are internally displaced in Ukraine.

Poland has hosted more than 2.9 million people fleeing the conflict, while other countries such as Romania, Moldova and Hungary have also taken in significant numbers of refugees. Ukraine’s neighbors have mostly taken in those fleeing the conflict, but there have been reports of migrants and refugees from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia being pushed to the back of the queues. waiting for the departure of buses and trains.

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That racism and xenophobia have played a role in how people are treated and used to determine who has preference to leave is undeniable. They have played an important role in Europe’s response to the refugee and migrant crises that have unfolded on this continent and in the Mediterranean over the past decade.

Eastern European efforts to prevent Middle Eastern refugees from reaching Western Europe are well documented, with border guards forcing people back, shooting them and detaining them in prisons. detention centers for long periods. Europe has also struck deals with countries like Turkey and Libya to prevent migrants and refugees from reaching the continent.

Detention centers

It is because of this context that Sally Hayden’s book My fourth time, we drowned is so relevant. Hayden, an award-winning Irish journalist whose work focuses on migration, conflict and humanitarian crises, paints a disturbing picture of the consequences of EU attempts to prevent migration to Europe. These include the establishment of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund to address the “root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa”.

Other attempts to stop people crossing Europe include a €100 million deal between Italy and Libya, whereby the Libyan Coast Guard will be trained and equipped to “stem the influx of illegal migrants “.

This has seen migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean being intercepted and deported to Libya, where many are held indefinitely in inhumane conditions in detention centers across the North African country.

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This is where Hayden’s reporting begins, after receiving a message on Facebook in 2018 from an Eritrean detained in one of these centers. At the time, new fighting had broken out in Libya, with the conflict raging in the streets. Many migrants and refugees were left in detention centers as guards fled.

The story begins with one of the central figures in Hayden’s book, the young Eritrean refugee Kaleb. The book follows his many attempts to cross the Mediterranean, which end with him in detention centers in Libya and abused by human traffickers.

His story of trying to find a better life in Europe is told in vivid detail, beginning on a cramped boat as Kaleb and other migrants and refugees attempt to cross the Mediterranean. “The sea was dark, the water cold. Some of the hundreds of people in the boat were crying softly, their stomachs heaving as they retched from seasickness. The women sometimes cried, hugging their children as they begged the Lord,” writes Hayden.

horror trip

The Libyan Coast Guard will later intercept the boat, beginning the young man’s horror journey. “Kaleb’s interception at sea marked the crushing climax of all the time and more than $10,000 he had spent trying to get to safety. His hopes were dashed by tougher European migration policy in its most brutal form,” writes Hayden.

His reporting painstakingly documents the years of hopelessness and desperation that migrants and refugees held in these detention centers faced, where they were starved and abused by guards. But the book also contains first-hand accounts of human trafficking and the modern slave markets that thrive in the country.

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At Souq al Khamis, a migrant detention center in the Libyan port city of Khoms, migrants warn new arrivals what to expect by writing on the walls. “Who comes to this house, God help you,” reads one message. “Libya is a market for human beings.”

Some migrants and refugees were sold to traffickers directly from this detention center. The traffickers then demanded ransoms of up to $20,000 from their families. Where families were unable to pay the ransom, many were beaten and killed. With detailed accounts of many of those held in the souk al Khamis and other similar centres, Hayden shows the toll these conditions took on migrants and refugees who had already risked their lives, time and time again in many cases, to leave their homes.

No help from aid workers

Around 20 people detained in Khoms attempted suicide in December 2018, with one man reportedly telling Hayden: “The world can’t find us, we’re uniquely isolated. Some become mentally desperate. We live in a black hell.

While his reporting shines a light on the horrific conditions migrants and refugees face on their perilous journey just to reach Libya, Hayden’s work also shines a light on the corruption and incompetence of workers in non-governmental organizations and aid agencies. Some of the stories in Hayden’s book paint a disturbing picture of those who are meant to help and support some of the most vulnerable people in conflict and disaster areas.

It shows a contingent of workers focused more on personal enrichment and career advancement. In a particularly shocking account, Alessandra Morelli, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Niger, compared refugees complaining about their treatment and the aid agency’s inability to help them to kids throwing a tantrum.

August 9, 2019: Author Sally Hayden. (Source: Facebook)

My fourth time, we drowned does not simply detail the effects of the continuous and enduring systematic failures of those in the EU to address migration and global humanitarian crises forcing people to flee. It also acts as a mirror to the rest of the world, highlighting the contradictions in the world’s perception of the war in Ukraine and accommodating the unprecedented number of people fleeing this conflict.

While Hayden’s book details the western world’s failures to allow people to drown in the Mediterranean, to be locked up and abused in detention centers in Libya, and sold, beaten and killed by traffickers, it highlights also highlight the resilience of those fleeing conflict and other disasters while seeking new lives and opportunities.

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About Debra D. Johnson

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