Sub-Saharan Immigrants Suffer in Libya

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 21:25 PM EDT, 28 March 2012

Libyan Rebel SoldierTRIPOLI, Libya - Illegal immigration is a problem in emerging economies where many migrants seek to make the dangerous journey to Europe in hope of a better life. Libya, as a gateway to Europe, finds itself in a politically sensitive position with regard to immigrants.

Specifically, native-born Libyans now seem to have a serious problem with 'black' Africans. Sub-Saharan Africans are now viewed with suspicion and are often discriminated against through racial profiling. Because of their skin color they are easily identifiable and singled out.

Muammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan leader recruited thousands of mercenaries – nearly 30,000 according to the nonprofit group Human Rights Solidarity – largely from Sub-Saharan countries. The men were reportedly hired to take care of the dirty work of repression, and many were ruthless in their violence.

Shortly after the overthrow and death of Gaddafi, rebels hunted down mercenaries from Nigeria, Ghana, Chad, and Mauritania, including some black Libyans who were subsequently detained, beaten and extra-judicially killed. Even immigrants who have legally entered the country suffer immense discrimination.

Because most Libyans view Sub-Saharan Africans with suspicion, illegal immigrants fare much worse, especially those caught at the borders. Just outside of Tripoli there is a camp that houses about 600 detainees who have been caught trying to cross the border illegally.

Most have used all their money and resources to get to Libya which is a gateway to Europe. They don't want to stay in the North African country, but are simply seeking passage to countries where they can work in anonymity.

Once detained men and women are housed separately and subjected to harsh conditions. They are housed in corrugated steel buildings with concrete floors and no heating.  Many of the men complain that they haven't had access to telephones and are therefore unable to contact their families to let them know what has happened. According to a BBC report, they also state that many are sick and lack access to healthcare, and are hungry.

There are just a few wardens to guard over 600 prisoners and they recognize that this is a potential human rights violation, but are powerless to do anything about it.  They are doing their jobs though some sympathize with these immigrants who are just trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.

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