Migrant in Libya relives brutal detention through sketches | News


A guard holds water from a barefoot migrant kneeling in front of him. An emaciated man lies on the floor while a thermostat reads a 43C on the grill (109.4F). Refugees shrink to the ground while bullets pass.

These pencil sketches of an Eritrean refugee offer an idea of ​​the brutal reality of migrant detention centers in Libya, where thousands have been locked up for months or even years.


Most are there after not being able to make the dangerous crossing to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea.

The artist asked to be identified only by his nickname, Aser, because he fears reprisals from the militias for talking about what he says are "nightmare conditions,quot; within the centers.

In a country without a functioning government, it is often the competing militias that run detention centers and earn money with migrants.

The drawings are based on what Aser, 28, witnessed at several migrant facilities in Tripoli between September 2017 and October this year.

At night, he recalls, he woke up to the sounds of the militiamen who dragged migrants out of their sleep and beat them to get rescue from their families, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa.

The guards retained food, water and medicines for the same reason.

Libyan migrant detention centers are plagued with abuse, and many have been caught in the crossfire of the country's civil war.

A drawing shows refugees in the crossfire between the forces of military commander Khalifa Hafter and militias allied with the government supported by the United Nations in Tripoli.

Libya became an important crossing point for migrants to Europe after the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, but Europe now sends money to Libya to prevent migrants from reaching their shores.

With the rise in reports of torture and abuse within detention centers, the European policy of supporting the Libyan coast guard while intercepting fleeing migrants has been subject to increasing criticism.

Aser says that often, the only drinking water available inside the hangars where they kept it was a few buckets of water for hundreds of people.

He and others spent weeks without seeing sunlight, and crowded centers became areas of disease reproduction.

At the last facility where he was held, Abu Salim, he and another migrant, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that two Eritreans died of what they thought was tuberculosis.

Aser's journey began more than four years ago, when he escaped mandatory military service in Ethiopia, considered one of the most repressive governments in the world.

He made his way through Ethiopia and Sudan, and paid $ 6,000 to traffickers in Libya to secure a place on a ship to Europe. But the ship was intercepted by the Libyan coast guard.

He finished in Tripoli in September 2017 and was placed in the first of three centers. The visiting workers of Doctors Without Borders, or MSF, provided him with pencils and paper, and worked out of sight of the guards.

Sometimes he hid the drawings and took pictures of some sketches before destroying them.

In late October, Aser fled to an already crowded United Nations facility with hundreds of other detainees.

Now his hope is that he may be one of the few who qualify for asylum, who embark on flights through Niger and Rwanda to Europe.

Meanwhile, he says, his only escape is art.

"I dream that one day I can leave Libya to develop my skills by getting additional education," he said.

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