Migrant expulsions from Tunisia to Libya fuel extortion, abuse -UN briefing

Tunisian border guards have rounded up migrants and passed them to counterparts in Libya where they have faced forced labour, extortion, torture and killing, according to a confidential UN human rights briefing. (AFP/File)
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Updated 11 June 2024
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Migrant expulsions from Tunisia to Libya fuel extortion, abuse -UN briefing

  • The two nations are vital partners in the European Union’s efforts to stem the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean
  • Hundreds of migrants in Tunisia were caught in a wave of detentions and expulsions to Libya in the second half of last year

NAIROBI: Tunisian border guards have rounded up migrants and passed them to counterparts in Libya where they have faced forced labor, extortion, torture and killing, according to a confidential UN human rights briefing seen by Reuters.
The two nations are vital partners in the European Union’s efforts to stem the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean from North Africa into southern Europe.
Hundreds of migrants in Tunisia were caught in a wave of detentions and expulsions to Libya in the second half of last year, according to the briefing, dated Jan. 23. It was based on interviews with 18 former detainees as well as photographic and video evidence of torture in one of the facilities.
Tarek Lamloun, a Libyan human rights expert, said such transfers had taken place as recently as early May. About 2,000 migrants detained by Tunisia had been passed to the Libyans this year, he said, citing interviews with more than 30 migrants
The UN briefing, which has not been previously reported, was shared with diplomats in the region.
“Collective expulsions from Tunisia to Libya and the associated arbitrary detention of migrants are fueling extortion rackets and cycles of abuse, which are already widespread human rights issues in Libya,” the UN briefing said.
Libyan officials were demanding thousands of dollars in exchange for releasing some migrants, according to the briefing.
“The situation serves the interest of those who prey on the vulnerable, including human traffickers,” it added.
Neither Libyan nor Tunisian authorities responded to requests for comment on the UN briefing.
A spokesperson for the UN mission in Libya said they could not comment. On April 16, Abdoulaye Bathily, then the top UN official there, said he was “deeply concerned about the dire situation of migrants and refugees in Libya who endure human rights violations throughout the migration process.”
The European Union said last year it would spend 800 million euros through 2024 across North Africa to stem the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean. Immigration was a leading concern for voters in European elections last week that saw far-right parties make gains.
In the first four months of this year, arrivals of migrants in Europe via the central Mediterranean were down over 60 percent from the same period of 2023. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on June 4 the decline was “above all” due to help from Tunisia and Libya.
Rights groups, however, say the EU policy of farming out immigration control to third countries in return for aid leads to abuse and fails to address the underlying issues.
In May, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied said hundreds of people were arriving every day and his country was coordinating migrant returns with neighbors. The government has in the past said it respects human rights. Libyan authorities say they work with neighbors to solve migration issues.
Reuters was unable to verify independently the accounts of abuse in the UN briefing.
A UN fact-finding mission concluded last year that crimes against humanity had been committed against migrants in Libya in some detention centers managed by units that received backing from the EU.
A spokesperson for the European Commission did not provide answers to questions sent by Reuters.

BURNED ALIVE, SHOT
The latest UN briefing said there was a pattern where Tunisian border officials coordinated with Libyan counterparts to transfer migrants to either Al-Assa or Nalout detention facilities, just over the border in Libya.
Migrants are held for periods varying from a few days to several weeks before they are transferred to the Bir Al-Ghanam detention facility, closer to Tripoli, the briefing said.
The facilities are managed by Libya’s Department to Combat Illegal Migration (DCIM) and the Libyan Coast Guard.
The UN report said that the DCIM has continuously denied UN officials access to the locations.
Migrants interviewed for the UN briefing came from Palestine, Syria, Sudan and South Sudan. Getting information from African migrants was harder as they were being deported and communication with them was more complicated.
Three of the migrants interviewed had scars and signs of torture, the briefing said.
The UN briefing from January described the conditions at Al-Assa and Bir Al-Ghanam as “abhorrent.”
“Hundreds of detainees have been crammed in hangars and cells, often with one functional toilet, and no sanitation or ventilation,” it said.
At Bir Al-Ghana, officials allegedly extorted migrants $2,500-$4,000 for their release, depending on their nationality.
In the Al-Assa facility, border guards burned alive a Sudanese man and shot another detainee for unknown reasons, witnesses told the UN, according to the January briefing.
Former detainees identified people traffickers among the border guard officials working there, it added.
“The current approach to migration and border management is not working,” the January briefing said, calling for Libya to decriminalize migrants who enter the country illegally and for all international support for border management to adhere to human rights.


UAE, GCC welcome ICJ ruling on Israeli settlements in Palestine

Updated 26 sec ago
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UAE, GCC welcome ICJ ruling on Israeli settlements in Palestine

  • ICJ had reinforced the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights under international law, Albudaiwi says

DUBAI: The UAE and the Gulf Cooperation Council have welcomed a ruling by the UN’s top court that Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory break international law.

The International Court of Justice issued the judgment, which is non-binding, on Friday.

The court ruled that “the transfer by Israel of settlers to the West Bank and Jerusalem as well as Israel’s maintenance of their presence, is contrary to article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the country rejected all measures aimed at altering the historical and legal status of occupied Palestine.

The ministry condemned practices that contravene international resolutions, warning that such actions “threaten further escalation and instability in the region, and hinder efforts to achieve peace and stability.” It also emphasized the importance of supporting initiatives to advance the peace process in the Middle East as well as bringing an end to “Israel’s illegal practices that undermine an independent Palestinian state.”

GCC Secretary-General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi said that the ICJ had reinforced the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights under international law and UN resolutions to reclaim territories occupied by Israel. He asserted that the settlement activities and geographic changes imposed by Israeli forces are “illegitimate and lack regional or international recognition.”

Albudaiwi reiterated that the Occupied Territories remain “the inherent right of the Palestinian people” and reaffirmed the GCC’s steadfast support for the Palestinian cause, advocating for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The ICJ’s ruling comes against the backdrop of Israel’s devastating bombardment on Gaza, following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israeli settlements adjacent to the Palestinian enclave.

Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem in 1967, but Palestinians consider those areas to be an integral part of any future independent state.

The ruling was also welcomed by Saudi Arabia and the Muslim World League.


 


Moroccan ex-minister hit with five-year jail sentence

Updated 58 min 21 sec ago
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Moroccan ex-minister hit with five-year jail sentence

  • The charges relate to funds the Moroccan Liberal Party (PML) received in a 2015 electoral campaign
  • Ziane, who was human rights minister between 1995 and 1996, has been in detention since November 2022

RABAT: Moroccan opposition figure and former minister Mohamed Ziane has been sentenced to five years in prison while serving a three-year term in another case, his lawyer said on Saturday.
The former Rabat bar association president was convicted on charges of “embezzlement and squandering of public funds,” the lawyer Ali Reda Ziane, who is also his son, told AFP.
The charges relate to funds the Moroccan Liberal Party (PML) — of which Mohamed Ziane was founder and chief — received in a 2015 electoral campaign.
“This is a form of life sentence for an 81-year-old man while legally nothing has been proven,” said the lawyer, who plans to appeal the ruling.
Ziane, who was human rights minister between 1995 and 1996, has been in detention since November 2022, after being sentenced the three years on appeal.
The opposition figure had become known in recent years for statements criticizing the authorities in Morocco, particularly the intelligence services.
He said he was being judged “because of his opinions.”
The proceedings follow an interior ministry complaint on seven counts, among them contempt of public officials and justice, insults against a constituted body, defamation, adultery and sexual harassment.
In the same case, the financial crimes chamber of the Rabat appeals court sentenced the PML treasurer and a party administrative employee to five years in prison and one year in prison plus a one-year suspended sentence, respectively.


Gaza hospital says newborn saved from dead mother’s womb

Updated 20 July 2024
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Gaza hospital says newborn saved from dead mother’s womb

  • Doctors were unable to save the mother, but performed an ultrasound that detected the baby’s heartbeat
  • They quickly staged an emergency cesarean section “and extracted the fetus”

GAZA: A Gaza hospital said Saturday it saved a baby boy from his mother’s womb after she died from wounds sustained in an Israeli strike.
Ola Adnan Harb Al-Kurd, who was nine months pregnant, barely survived a punishing night of missile strikes that rescue services across the Hamas-run territory said killed more than 24 people, including six members of the same family.
But by the time Kurd reached Al-Awda Hospital, she was “almost dead,” according to surgeon Akram Hussein.
Doctors were unable to save the mother, but performed an ultrasound that detected the baby’s heartbeat.
They quickly staged an emergency cesarean section “and extracted the fetus,” the surgeon told AFP.
The newborn was initially in critical condition, but after receiving oxygen and medical attention was stabilized, said Raed Al-Saudi, head of the hospital’s obstetrics and gynaecology department.
He was placed in an incubator and transferred to Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir el-Balah.
Kurd was among three women and a child killed by an Israeli missile fired on the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, according to a medical official at Al-Awda Hospital. Her husband was also wounded in the strike on the family home.
Israel has not confirmed individual strikes, but a military statement said troops were “conducting targeted raids on terrorist infrastructure sites” in central Gaza.
Israel has stepped up its offensive in several parts of the territory in line with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s order to increase pressure on Hamas following the Palestinian militants’ attacks on southern Israel on October 7.
One man was killed in a drone hit while riding a bicycle on a street near the southern city of Khan Yunis, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.
Air strikes on two homes in Gaza City in the north each left six dead, according to the civil defense agency and paramedics.
Israel’s military statement said “troops eliminated a number of terrorists in several different encounters” and had launched an operation on the Tal Al-Sultan refugee camp near the southern city of Rafah.
The war in Gaza has made childbirth increasingly perilous, with pregnant women facing not only near-daily strikes that hamper access to health facilities, but also widespread food insecurity, degrading sanitary conditions and water scarcity.
The few hospitals that are still working have been stretched to breaking point, according to humanitarian groups.
Pre-term deliveries and maternal complications, including eclampsia, haemorrhage and sepsis, have been rising, Doctors Without Borders said this week.


Australia calls for ‘concrete steps’ on Israeli settler violence after ICJ apartheid ruling

Updated 20 July 2024
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Australia calls for ‘concrete steps’ on Israeli settler violence after ICJ apartheid ruling

  • FM Penny Wong says visas will be denied to settlers, reiterates need for two-state solution
  • International Court of Justice calls for end to occupation, reparations for ‘internationally wrongful acts’

 

LONDON: Australia has called on Israel to do more to stop violence by settlers in the Occupied Territories after the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel is responsible for overseeing an apartheid system.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Israel needs to take “concrete steps” to end “extremist settler activity,” adding in a statement published on X that Canberra considers the occupation a “significant obstacle” to peace in the region.

“We respect the independence of the court and its critical role in upholding international law and the rules-based order,” Wong’s statement read.

“We are carefully considering the detail of the ICJ opinion to fully understand the conclusions reached.”

She said Australia will deny travel visas into the country to anyone identified as a settler. “A just and enduring peace will require the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to self-determination to be realised,” she added.

“We want to see concrete steps taken by Israel to cease the expansion of settlements and to respond to extremist settler activity.”

In its non-bonding advisory opinion, the ICJ said Israel should end the occupation “as rapidly as possible” and take steps to fund reparations for “internationally wrongful acts.”

Its publication follows a request in 2022 by the UN General Assembly to assess legal consequences of Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories.

Tirana Hassan, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement: “In a historic ruling the International Court of Justice has found multiple and serious international law violations by Israel towards Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including, for the first time, finding Israel responsible for apartheid. 

“The court has placed responsibility with all states and the United Nations to end these violations of international law.

“The ruling should be yet another wake up call for the United States to end its egregious policy of defending Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and prompt a thorough reassessment in other countries as well.”


13 Palestinians killed in central Gaza strikes as ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas grind on

Updated 20 July 2024
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13 Palestinians killed in central Gaza strikes as ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas grind on

  • Palestinian ambulance teams said the three strikes that hit Nuseirat Refugee Camp and Bureij Refugee Camp

DEIR AL-BALAH: At least 13 people were killed in three Israeli airstrikes that hit refugee camps in central Gaza overnight into Saturday, according to Palestinians health officials, as ceasefire talks in Cairo appear to make progress.
Among the dead in Nuseirat Refugee Camp and Bureij Refugee Camp were three children and one woman, according to Palestinian ambulance teams that transported the bodies to the nearby Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital. The 13 corpses were counted by AP journalists at the hospital.
The latest casualties follow a rare moment of hope in war ravaged Gaza, after a medical teams recovered a live baby from a heavily pregnant Palestinian mother killed in an airstrike that hit her home in Nuseirat late Thursday evening.
Heavily pregnant Ola Al-Kurd, 25, was killed along with six others in the blast, but was quickly rushed by emergency workers to Al-Awda Hospital in northern Gaza in the hope of saving the unborn child. Hours later, doctors told The Associated Press that a baby boy had been delivered.
The still-unnamed newborn is stable but has suffered from a shortage of oxygen and has been placed in an incubator, said Dr. Khalil Dajran. The baby boy’s father was wounded in the same strike, but survived.
Since October, Israel has killed more than 38,900 Palestinian, according to the territory’s Health Ministry. The attack on Gaza has created a humanitarian catastrophe in the coastal Palestinian territory, displaced most of its 2.3 million population and triggered widespread hunger.
In April, a premature Palestinian baby was rescued from her dead mother’s womb but died days later.
In Cairo, international mediators, including the United States, are continuing to push Israel and Hamas toward a phased deal that would halt the fighting and free about 120 hostages in Gaza.
On Friday, the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, said a ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel that will release Israeli hostages captive by the group in Gaza are “inside the 10-yard line,” but added “we know that anything in the last 10 yards are the hardest.”
Fruitless stop-and-start negotiations between the warring sides have been underway since November’s one-week ceasefire, with both Hamas and Israel repeatedly accusing each other of scuppering the effort as it approaches a deal.