Rome, October 18th, 2017 – Medici per i Diritti Umani /Doctors for Human Rights (MEDU) presents EXODI 2017 the new web map on migratory routes from sub-Saharan countries to Europe.photo NARCISO CONTRERAS
EXODI is an interactive map based on 2,600 testimonies collected by Medici per i Diritti Umani in nearly four years (2014-2017), of which over half in 2017. The interactive map – enriched with video, testimonials, charts and statistics – tells in a simpler and more detailed way, through their own voices, the routes faced by migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa to Italy, the difficulties, the violence, the tragedies and the hopes.
Through the migrant stories, we learn that the most dramatic situation is now in Libya: Tripoli, Sabha, Gharyan, Beni Walid, Zawia and Sabratha. Following the signature of the new Italo-Libyan agreements, migrant embarkations from the Libyan coasts have drastically diminished, as well as the entry of migrants into Libyan territory from Niger and Sudan, key countries of migratory flows from West Africa and the Horn of Africa, as a consequence of the agreements signed between Italy and the European Union with these states.
The result of these policies is tragic: hundreds of thousands of migrants blocked in Libya, most of whom are in detention, have been kidnapped or are in slavery. The thousands of testimonies collected by MEDU describe a country that today is a sort of large prison camp for migrants, subjected to gross violence and abuse; a country where crimes against humanity are committed on a large scale; a country that has become a place of death and torture for hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. In front of such a terrible situation, the international community is called upon to respond with maximum energy and urgency.
“The first time I was at sea, our boat was intercepted the Libyan Coast Guard and brought back to land. The Coast Guard then led us to a prison in Zawia called Ossama Prison … What differentiates this prison from the others is the fact that if you pay the ransom you can be sure that you will be released, which is not always true for the other prisons.
There is an infinite amount of violence and cruelties perpetrated in this prison with the intent of extorting money from the prisons, but it’s not the same widespread violence that goes on in other places. This prison is monitored once a month by a commission of Europeans. During the monthly visit, the guards hide all their instruments of torture and open the cells in order to make the place look like a refugee camp rather than a prison. Then, when the visit is over, everything goes back to as it was before.”
X.Y. from Cameroon, 25 years, Pozzallo Hotspot, July 2017
In this context it is estimated that the thirty detention centers formally under the control of the Al Sarraj Libyan government currently contain a number ranging between six thousand and fifteen thousand people. The remaining tens of thousands of migrants are in a huge black hole made up of detention and seizure sites controlled by militias, traffickers and criminal gangs like the Asma Boys. If, in fact, the Italo-Libyan agreement of last February, endorsed by Europe, theoretically provided for two key strategic objectives – the control of migratory flows to Italy and the improvement of the living conditions of migrants in what the memorandum defines as Libyan “reception centers ” – it is clear today that, while the first aim is tenaciously pursued, the second is completely disregarded, making also Italy and the European Union de facto responsible for the atrocities that are taking place in Libya. Beyond the declared good intentions, the humanitarian initiatives put in place or envisaged by both the Italian government and international organizations are dramatically inadequate in view of the size of this human catastrophe; in practice, it is like claiming to empty a swamp with a spoon.
“We were brought to a prison near Tripoli called “Mitiga”…. I experienced great violence in this prison and I was beaten every day. I was tortured with my family on the phone. They were forced to listen to the atrocities inflicted on me and told to pay my ransom. They would tie my legs and hang me, face down. They would hit me forcefully on the bottom of my feet. At times, they would drench me in water and then hit me all over my body with hard plastic tubes. I would feel this intense pain and my skin would swell and turn red. Then, the marks would disappear. Once, an Arab man cut my hand with a knife. I saw many people killed for futile reasons and at times, just for fun. I was often scared of dying. I would think that I was never going to leave the prison”
I. from Ivory Coast, 20 years, Pozzallo Hotspot, September 2017
According to data collected by MEDU over the last four years – confirmed if not aggravated in recent months – 85% of migrants from Libya suffered torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and specifically 79% were detained / abducted in overcrowded places and in poor hygienic sanitary conditions; 60% suffered constant deprivations of food, water and medical care; 55% serious and repeated beatings, and lower percentages but still significant, rapes and other sexual offences, burns caused by the most diverse instruments like the falaka (beatings on the soles of the feet), electric shocks and torture in suspended and stressful positions. All detained migrants have suffered continued humiliation and, in many cases, religious outrages and other forms of degrading treatment. Nine in ten migrants said they had seen someone die, be killed or tortured. Some survivors were forced to torture other migrants to avoid being killed. There are many testimonies of migrants subjected to hard labour or slavery for months or years. This data, probably underestimated, is, in our view, a true picture of the systematic violence that all migrants from Libya to our country experience.
“I spent 11 months in a Libyan prison. I fell ill in the prison due to the terrible sanitary conditions in which we were kept. I contracted a skin disease. My entire body was full of wounds that bled and filled with pus. I was not allowed to see a doctor and deteriorated significantly. The guards would publicly humiliate me because of my condition and no one wanted to be near me. The guards would come only to beat or humiliate me. They would tell me that I was worthless, and that no one would ever want me near them again. I thought I was going to die because of the disease. Thus I decided to try and escape with a friend of mine. The guards found out immediately and caught us again. They brought us back to prison where they beat us violently. My friend did not survive the beating. I saw him die before my eyes.” .
L., 20 years old from Gambia. Testimony collected in August 2017, Hotspot of Pozzallo
The atrocities reported by witnesses are confirmed by the physical and psychic sequelae found in survivors by MEDU doctors. Actually, 82% of the patients visited still had physical signs, often severe, compatible with the reported violence. In addition to the physical signs, the psychological and psychopathological consequences are often more insidious and disabling. Among the mental disorders most commonly diagnosed by MEDU doctors and psychologists are Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other disorders related to traumatic events but also depressive disorders, traumatic somatizations, anxiety and sleep disorders.
” I spent three years in Libya and was in Zwara, specifically, for the last two. I worked for the Libyan police but I didn’t really have a job. The police would use me and I couldn’t refuse. They beat me violently and threatened to kill me when I tried to object. I had been assigned the task of recuperating cadavers from the sea: the bodies of my brothers who had died as victims in shipwrecks. I was supposed to gather the bodies and then burry them. I saw around 3,000 cadavers in these two years. Eventually, I grew accustomed to it. Eventually, I stopped reacting emotionally. I stopped getting upset. Yet, I never could get used to the bodies of pregnant women or children. “
L. from Gambia, 17 years, Pozzallo Hotspot, September 2017
Faced with such a tragedy, Medici per i Diritti Umani calls for an appropriate and immediate response from Italy, the European Union and the international community. Hundreds of thousands of people sentenced to these atrocities cannot be considered second-class humans. Just as it has been possible to stop the migratory flow within a few months, equally fast and determined security and safety must be guaranteed for migrants trapped in the Libyan camps. Libyan detention centers, including those under government control, are clearly not reformable, and it is therefore necessary to activate immediately reception centers in the North African country under the control of the international community, with UNHCR and OIM’s operational contribution, where the migrants could have the opportunity to apply for international protection or the possibility of safe repatriation.
The data and testimonies collected by EXODI describe, inter alia, the reasons for the migrants flight from their countries of origin (less than 10% of witnesses claim exclusively economic reasons), highlighting how the distinction between refugees and economic migrants is now as old a concept as the Berlin Wall, unable to describe the complexity of the present world, where the dimensions of poverty, persecution and violence intertwine in the individual lives of people fleeing. In a wider perspective, it is necessary to create humanitarian corridors for people fleeing from wars and persecutions as well as to activate legal channels of entry to Italy and Europe.
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Medici per i Diritti Umani (MEDU), an independent humanitarian organization, has provided health assistance and guidance to refugees in precarious conditions in various projects in Italy and North Africa since 2004. The testimonies of the EXODI map were collected in particular in Sicily – in the Hotspot of Pozzallo, in the extraordinary reception centers (CAS) in Ragusa and in the reception centre for asylum seekers (CARA) in Mineo – and in Rome at informal reception locations and in the Psyché Center for the rehabilitation of victims of torture. Testimonies were also collected in Ventimiglia and in Egypt (Aswan and Cairo). In all these places, MEDU works by bringing social and health support to migrants, first medical assistance and medical and psychological rehabilitation services for victims of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.
Exodi 2017 The new web map told by migrants
Categories: Press release