Condemnations have trailed the news of a young Nigerian man who was burned alive in Libya earlier last week.
According to UN and Libyan government officials, the men accused of setting him on fire have been arrested. An investigation into the incident is under way.
“We are horrified by the killing of a Nigerian migrant worker in Tripoli, Libya by three men [on Tuesday, 6 October]”, tweeted Federico Soda, the UN Migration Agency (IOM)’s Chief of Mission in Libya. “The young man was burned alive, in yet again another senseless crime against migrants in the country,” continued Soda. “Those responsible must be held to account.”
The man’s death was confirmed by both UN and Libyan government officials on Wednesday, 7 October. Libya’s interior minister told the news agency AP that three men had “stormed a factory in the Tripoli neighborhood of Tajoura, where African migrants were working.”
The three men are Libyan and thought to be in their thirties. According to the interior ministry, they detained one of the workers, a Nigerian man, poured gasoline on him and set him on fire. There was no motive for the crime given.
We are horrified by the killing of a Nigerian migrant worker in Tripoli, #Libya by three men yesterday.
The young man was burned alive, in yet again another senseless crime against migrants in the country.
Those responsible must be held to account.
— Federico Soda (@fedsoda) October 7, 2020
According to the interior ministry statement, as reported by AP, three other migrants were also injured in the incident and suffered burns. They are now being treated at a nearby hospital.
Another UN spokesperson in Libya, Stephane Dujarric, commented on the crime: “Sometimes you run out of adjectives to describe what we see in all too many places.” Dujarric added that “This underscores, as if we needed to underscore yet again, how unsafe Libya is for migrants, for refugees, and how much the authorities on the ground still need to do to ensure the protection of these vulnerable people.”
Sadly, this is not the first attack on migrants in Libya this year. For 2020, the IOM recorded 398 deaths in the Mediterranean sea up to August. In addition to that, about 9,500 migrants who attempted to cross the Mediterranean towards Europe were returned to Libya this year, often by the Libyan coast guard, which received funding from the European Union in order to carry out “search and rescue activities” in its SAR designated zone in the Mediterranean.
Libyan authorities shot dead three Sudanese migrants in the western coastal town of Khoms in July, according to international media reports. The migrants were trying to escape after being brought back to Libya by the Libyan coast guard after their attempt to cross the sea to Europe.
In May this year, about 30 mostly Bangladeshi migrants were also reportedly shot dead by the family of a Libyan migrant smuggler who had been killed.
Migrants are exposed to horrendous human rights violations in Libya, where there are many militias outside of the control of the government.
According to estimates, there are hundreds of thousands of sub-Saharan migrants in Libya, most are stuck in the country as they’re unable to cross to Europe. Many migrants are intercepted by the Libyan coast guard working with European authorities and returned to Libya. More than 7,000 people have been returned to Libya in 2020, according to the UN Refugee Agency.
The intercepted migrants mostly to end up in detention centers in parts of Libya controlled by the internationally-recognized government in Tripoli, where they live in appalling conditions and are abused.
Last month, Amnesty International released a report detailing “horrific cycles of abuses” of migrants in Libya, including unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and rape. The rights group says that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the abuse.
“Instead of being protected, they are met with a catalogue of appalling human rights abuses and now unfairly for the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic on deeply racist and xenophobic grounds,” said Diana Eltahawy, the rights group’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa said in the report.
Black African migrants are particularly exposed to human rights abuses including those motivated by racism. Vidoes showing Black Africans being auctioned as slaves in 2017 caused international outrage and condemnations.